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New Title Tuesday: La La Land, Written and Directed by Damien Chazelle

It’s finally arrived at the library! La La Land written and directed by Damien Chazelle and it’s this week’s New Title Tuesday recommendation.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it last winter, you’re in for a treat.

Summary: Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Damien Chazelle, LA LA LAND tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

3 La La

I make no apology for loving musicals, and it’s not at all odd that people might randomly break into song in the grocery, at work, or walking down the street where a crush lives.  In fact, you’ve probably been seen in your car singing along to the radio or humming to piped-in pop-songs at a mall or restaurant.  Face it; the show-biz version of bursting forth with song and dance is only odd because of precision choreography, stylish fashions, and great lighting.

With that said, when I went to see La La Land last winter, I was optimistic but guarded.  Naturally, I left the theater humming and sentimental.  The story was not new – boy meets girl, falls in love, then loses girl.  The production, the musical numbers, and the acting each won a gazillion nominations and won over 100 awards.

But as Brian Tallerico reminds in his review for RogerEbert.com, the huge and stunning ensemble dance number that opens the movie, is not representative of the rest of the film. After this beginning scene, Tallerico said, “Chazelle’s direction and the dance choreography feels different. Here, and throughout the film, he works in long, unbroken takes. You can not only see the dance moves, but you can see the dancer’s entire body when he or she performs them. And after the chorus-like introduction to a city of dreamers, we meet two such sun-gazers: pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and actress Mia (Emma Stone). Like any good musical, the two have a few false starts and playfully mock each other’s flaws in their first scenes.”

I’m a pushover for this sort of story. The real test was would my husband be able to mask his indignation enough to stay seated until the closing credits.  Then, the why-people-hate-jazz jokes began.  My significant other is a jazz bassist who regularly plays gigs in the area.  The irony of the Ryan Gosling character also being a ‘jazz martyr’ trying to eke out a living while staying true to the purity of jazz, is a relatable theme.

La La Land provides beautiful songs and orchestrations, so even my music-haughty husband willingly stated that he enjoyed the movie.  And, believe me, he wouldn’t try to spare my feelings.

OK, one might still contend that musicals as an artform are artificial. Fine!  But so are music videos.  However, the good ones tell a great story.

Happy viewing and singing along, Susan C.

Other works by Damien Chazelle

Chazelle wrote the screenplay for other notable music-themed movies, Whiplash and Grand Piano, as well as non-music based film including 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Whiplash 1 WhiplashAndrew Neyman is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite East coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher, an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band.

 

Grand Piano T1 Grand Pianoom Selznick, the most talented pianist of his generation, stopped performing in public because of his stage fright. Years after a catastrophic performance, he reappears in public in a long awaited concert in Chicago. In a packed theater, in front of the expectant audience, Tom finds a message written on the score: Play one wrong note and you die. Without leaving the piano, Tom must discover the anonymous sniper’s motives and look for help without anyone realizing.

 

Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane A young woman wakes up after a terrible accident to find that she’s locked in a cellar with a doomsday prepper, who insists that he saved her life and that the world outside is uninhabitable following an apocalyptic catastrophe. Uncertain what to believe, the woman soon determines that she must escape at any cost.

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