Os­car fave LaLaLand com­ing to China, with love

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS CAPSULE - By XUFAN xufan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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).

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