I first came upon the trailer for La La Land on The Verge last July. I played it on the telly and immediately decided to watch this on the big screen when the release eventually comes along. It was not the actors nor the music but just the cut of the trailer, the visual vibrance was enough. I didn’t see the trailer again and forgot about the movie.
December comes along and I realize the limited release included our local CinéArts theater (I don’t how it falls under the category of an artsy theater when it is just another branding effort by a big chain. One thing I do miss about Rochester is The Little Theater referenced here in this review. The view of the screen there has not been matched again. Hope to be back there some day and catch a matinee) so on a Friday I left a little early from work and we got to catch the first show.
When Sachin was at the top of his game, there were a few moments, where he would step out of his humility and decide to toy with the bowler, go out and do it, enjoy doing it and show the bowler that he is enjoying it, with that subtle nod of his head. La La Land does exactly this in the visual story telling. The swagger and bravado is all too real to see.
Being a musical and being a story of a musician and an actress, there are a lot of songs and dances that enable a magical realism but the real choreography in this movie belongs to the camera. The eye popping colors across all the costumes on display throughout the story are embellishments on offer, the lights cutting in and fading out as needed to showcase the actors and their wares, but the movement through that space by the camera, matching the flow in rhythm with the dance at some points and with the song at others while going against the dance, weaving you in and out of those realms.
May be it is just me, but I do feel a little jaded by the overt realism in movies over the years, characters struggling against ginormous odds. Its either that or we have un-relatable fantasies ala the superhero movies. But here we have a self-aware meta movie doing justice in as much to be aware of the fallacy of such fantasies, but while keeping the story about two people, their crafts, their passions, their struggles, their success, egging each other on, with no external conflict but their own, gets to the crux of the continuing need for such fantasies. The subtle drifts towards to the fantasy and the return back to the grind, is probably the best handled metaphor throughout the movie, that it is a drift and not a cut. The need to return is real and immediate but it is a continuation, not a clean slate, like if it were a refreshing vacation.
There’s so much more to like and write about this movie and its songs. And am sure there will be videos on YouTube that will showcase why the making of this movie is an educational experience for movie makers, in due time. But for me this movie, took me back to the time where watching a movie meant me being lost in the world setup on the screen. A good part of that is us being ready to indulge in such worlds. But a bigger part is those worlds do need to entice us and engage us. And the nod at the end of the movie tied together with the two smiles – those two smiles coming up knowing what could have been but wasn’t, made sure I will indulge in future worlds to come.
PS : And if you haven’t watched it yet, give it a chance at the theaters. The grandeur of the camerawork is best suited to be experienced on the big screen.