No film has had more publicity over the last six months or so. Heavily feted at first, with a backlash more recently, it won Best Film at both the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs but was pipped at the post by Moonlight in a botched award ceremony at the Oscars that will go down in cinema history. Emma Stone swept the board at all three ceremonies as Best Actress and Damien Chazelle won the Best Director Oscar, the youngest ever director to win it.
So what is all the fuss about? It has a completely stunning opening sequence on a traffic-jammed freeway in LA. It turns out not to have been constructed on a green-screen but is the real thing. Chazelle closed the ramp between LA’s 105 and 110 freeways for a weekend, worked his 150-strong cast in the burning heat and finally showed them the finished product on video playback monitors as dusk fell, to deafening cheers. And Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are superb as Seb and Mia, whose love affair plays out in true screwball comedy form; they don’t hit it off and then they fall in love and then their separate ambitions threaten their love. All this plays out against the backdrop of Hollywood, the place where dreams come true or die, and where young actors and musicians struggle to find their fortunes. There is tender singing and dancing, in the style of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and saturated colour zinging out of the screen.
It is a triumph for Damien Chazelle, who wrote it before he wrote Whiplash. He is a jazz musician himself and has expressed his love for Hollywood and French musicals. He has said, ‘what’s great about musicals is their energy and go-for-brokeness, stopping the story to sing and dance. How can you not love that?’
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Venue: William Loveless Hall