Oscar fave LaLaLand coming to China, with love
Damien Chazelle leans casually against a chair, looking pretty much like any young expatriate in downtown Beijing.
But the 32-year-old American director is now making history inHollywood.
His musical romance La La Land just topped the Oscarnomination list on Tuesday by bagging 14 nods, tying records set by Titanic and All About Eve for the most ever.
Incomplete statistics show La La Land has to datewonup to 127 awards across the world, including a record-breaking seven Golden Globes.
Most of Western film critics applaud the film as one of the best in 2016 for its dazzling scenes, beautiful lyrics and nostalgic take on an oldHollywood fashion, which evokes films like Singin’ in the Rain and The Sound ofMusic.
The boy-meets-girl romance will open across China — now boasting the largest number of screens in the world— including an Imax version on Feb 14, Valentines’ Day.
Alongside lead actor Ryan Gosling, Chazelle was in the Chinese capital to promote the upcoming feature on Monday and Tuesday.
The premiere date purposely echoes the story: An aspiring actress (Emma Stone), falls in love with a struggling jazz pianist (Gosling). But when success arrives, conflicts emerge, pushing the partners apart.
“Hopeful it’s a completely universal love story that anyone in the world can relate to,” says Chazelle.
Near the end of the film, the actress soars as a celebrated star, as the pianist establishes his own jazz club, reconciling both of their dreams with reality.
Ordinary people can see the bittersweet reflection of their own stories in the movie— the struggles, striving, disappointments, joy and mourning for an unreachable past.
Once a drummer and a newbie in Los Angeles, Chazelle says La La Land is inspired partly on his personal experiences.
The Harvard graduate moved to the big city in 2008 and spent a lonely period in Tinseltown struggling for his dream. Gosling, the Canadian actor who shot to fame in the 2004 romance The Notebook, says he could also relate to that feeling when he assumed the role.
Although La La Land is his first film to be widely screened in China, Gosling has already become a heartthrob to numerous Chinese women, who’ve nicknamed him Gao Siling (Commander Gao), which sounds similar to the English pronunciation.
Landscapes in Los Angeles, from pavements to freeways, inspired Chazelle to invite his university roommate, the composer Justin Hurwitz, to create the screenplay in 2010.
But the beginning was tough. In an era dominated by superheroes and digital effects-studded action, few investors believed a musical would become a commercial hit.
“It had been difficult during the past several years. Just like the characters in the film, we’ve asked ourselves many times: ‘Is that a delusion? Are we naive, or wasting our time?’” says Chazelle.
Thanks to his 2014 film Whiplash, which won three AcademyAwards in 2015, Chazelle became a more convincing name to producers.
He organized a three-month rehearsal for the cast to dance and sing, and blocked a section of a freeway in Los Angeles as a filming set for two days. Gosling trained in piano for nearly four months.
Chinese have just joined the global enthusiasm over La La Land.
City of Stars, the theme song, has quickly accumulated nearly 60 million clicks since it was released on Chinese video-streaming sites, generating 130 million comments on Sina Weibo, the Chinese answer to Twitter.
But locals can also see the Oscar frontrunner’s attempt to connect with Chinese culture, in a small way.
In one scene, an American businessman who is dining with Stone’s character answers a phone call and suddenly switches toMandarin.
“Right now for American business, China is one of the most important places in the world. It makes sense that an American businessman would show off his bilingual talent, and his (connection with) the Chinese market,” the director says.
Chazelle has found his own influences here, citing Wong Kar-wai — a Hong Kong arthouse master — and Zhang Yimou — who’s behind the recent hit TheGreatWall, starringMatt Damon.
“China has such an incredible pictorial tradition. Chinese filmmakers know how to tell a story through imagery, with their tradition rooted from the scroll paintings, operas and so on,” he says.
Instead of showing off some simple Mandarin as touring Hollywood celebrities often do, Chazelle and Gosling charmed a crowd on Tuesday by using Chinese ink brushes to write the Chinese character ai (love).