A bit of madness is key to give us to color to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
Damien Chazelle’s Oscar winner Whiplash back in 2014 was a cacophony of intensity that delineated the pressure, sacrifice and pain that musicians face in a rat race in order to be considered as the best. Paying tribute to jazz legends such as Charlie Parker, it sensationally accentuated the arduous processes (seemingly an overplay with too much blood and sweat, but I would believe that pioneering jazz artists went through much more) that in turn forged great musicians.
Knowing that La La Land is another brainchild of Chazelle’s, my expectations were hence further heightened – and it certainly did not fail me. A glorious spectacle of song and dance, La La Land tells a boy-meets-girl kind of tale – Seb (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are aspiring artists obsessed with nostalgia and long to relive the good old days of soulful jazz and film respectively. The pair swiftly connects upon discovering each other’s delightful passions and shared struggle to make ends meet in their respective industries.
However, what initially seemed like a splendid fairytale gradually looms into a picture curtained with dark ominous clouds – the couple begins to drift apart due to individual commitments, as a long-distance relationship could never be, especially with Seb touring across states with his band, and Mia’s involvement in her own rehearsals.
The film concludes on a bittersweet note: Seb and Mia pursued their individual dreams over a span of five years and managed to achieve what they yearned – him owning a jazz-club, her becoming a renowned actress – and ends off (huge spoiler alert) in a Roman Holiday fashion, with the two eventually leading their own separate lives.
The final part of the film offers audience a “what-if” scene that consisted of the possibility of Seb awaiting for Mia, as she goes to Paris to become successful herself and him forgoing his personal goal of pursuing jazz.
This scene was an impressive rendition of Gene Kelly’s “Gotta Dance” in Singin’ in the Rain, and was remarkable to the plot as one gets to envision all the “could have beens” between Seb and Mia, realising how unfair a trade-off it would be for Seb to give up on his own dreams.
The film was an extravaganza that employed a colour palette filled with vibrant hues of sunshine yellow and mellow shades of green and blue. Of course, no detail in film-making is accidental – each colour in every scene depicted a specific atmosphere and mood of the characters.
For instance, the beaming display of the opening number ‘Another Day of Sun‘ corresponds to the film’s overarching message of high hopes, new beginnings, and of Los Angeles, the city of dreams.
Another noteworthy use of colour is seen in Mia’s audition – the deliberate placement of baby blue in characters’ clothes (a form of self-expression and the emotional unveiling of truth) and the waiting room (a melancholic setting which foreshadows a gloomy end ahead) indicates the scene as the tipping point in the couple’s relationship.
And also, not forgetting these other nicely shot scenes (a familiar reminder of Wes Anderson) that deserve accolades:
I do not deny being an idealist – classic film musicals and big band jazz are prior on my list of “Things that Make Me Happy”. I loved watching Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling float and dance dreamily on clouds. I sing heartily to songs that say “You’re just too marvelous, too marvelous for words“. The contemporary moviegoer may neither appreciate the overwhelming sense of optimism with regards to love back in the 1940s, nor admire Fred Astaire’s outlaw style of dancing in Top Hat and his saccharine duets with Judy Garland in Easter Parade, but Chazelle did a tremendous job by amalgamating classic MGM cliched romances and modern day pragmatism to make La La Land an effective encapsulation of realistic modern day love.
It is not pitiable that the film’s ultimate scene was not sealed with a happily-ever-after kiss between Seb and Mia. The film speaks dearly to everyone of us: people who come into our lives may not be destined to stay for long, but at least these are people who leave us with something to remember, be it lessons to learn or stories to tell.
La La Land surmounts a mere commendable attempt- it is triumphant in reviving the beauty of musical films of the golden age with its stunning cinematography and pleasant melodies. All that is left to do, well, is to anticipate Chazelle cradling a handful of Oscars once again.