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LA LA LAND, a story of fools who dream

March 23, 2017

La La Land is a movie directed by Damien Chazelle ( Whiplash) which came out in 2016 in the US.

It tells the story of Sebastian, a pianist who wants to open his own Jazz club and Mia, a young woman who dreams to be an actress. The fate will bring them together but they will have to choose between their love and their career.

This plot seems to be quite common, but in fact this film is completely original. We can say it is a musical because the songs appear between the scenes but the way it is directed makes it very realistic. Chazelle was inspired directly by the great American musicals of the 50’s (Singing in the Rain, An American in Paris), but also by the musicals from the French new wave like Les Parapluies de Cherbourg or Les Demoiselles de Rochefort by Jacques Demy. The director made a tiny reference to Les Parapluies by adding, in front of the cafe where Mia works, an umbrella store, with the word Parapluies written in bold letters.

The musical scenes are  taken in one or two long sequence shots, and everything is filmed in real locations. This movie is a tribute to the city of Los Angeles, to the dreamers who did auditions and always tried to get to success. I think one of the most beautiful scenes is probably when they are in a park, and they have a wonderful view on the city when the sun goes down.

Damien Chazelle had the idea of this movie when he was in college with his best friend, Justin Hurwitz. They were both in a band, Chazelle was playing the battery while Hurwitz was playing the piano. Chazelle first wanted to direct La La Land but all the producers refused his idea so he made Whiplash with a very low budget compared to big Hollywood movies. As a result, they won three Oscars ! Not too bad to begin a director’s career. Hurwitz scored Whiplash and La La Land. To do La La Land‘s music, he started with Mia and Sebastian’s theme which is played on the piano by Sebastian. He proposed to Chazelle 34 versions of it before finding THE good one which shows well the melancholy and the poetry of their relationship. This song is called “Late for the Date”.

Late for the Date :

The characters of Mia and Sebastian are played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Emma Stone has a very expressive face and her acting skills are brilliant; she gives a lot of emotions in every scene and she really shows her character’s evolution, the way she gains self-confidence and the way she makes her voice evolve is amazing. At the end of the movie she has a very emotional scene with Gosling when she tells him she is tired of doing auditions and failing over and over, and she really transmits beautiful emotions to the audience. There is also the moment she sings for the last time in the movie and she is completely astonishing. Hurwitz said in an interview that during the shooting of this scene, she had to sing in live, and she was able to give the same emotion at every take so much, that he was afraid to ruin the take because he was playing the piano at that moment. She really is an inspiring actress who auditioned for six years before getting the part of Olive in Easy A, which was her first big part who made her known worldwide.  Then she had a lot of success with The Amazing Spider-Man, Birdman, Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Help.  For La La Land, she won the Oscar and the BAFTA for best actress.

Ryan Gosling is also wonderful as Sebastian, a pianist who wants to open his own club but can barely keep his pianist job in a little bar. His interpretation in “City of Stars” is really melancholic and beautiful, and he is great because he only had 6 weeks to learn to play the piano, and his interpretations are gorgeous, especially in the end.

This film is really inspiring, beautiful, poetic and it was like a revelation to me. It explores the power of the cinema. How can an image bring happiness or sadness to an audience ? I cried a lot in the end, the first time I saw it. But when I got out of the movie theater I had a big smile on my face.  When you get out,  you wish you could live in a musical.

It is sad La La Land didn’t win the Oscar for best picture, because they totally deserve it. At least, its success around the world is completely deserved.

Here is an extract from the Making of the movie :


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