Tag Archive: Damien Chazelle

A party pooper in La La Land

LA LA LAND directed by Damien Chazelle (USA, 2016)


Movies don’t exist in vacuums. La La Land is the ideal antidote to the ongoing carnage of Trump.

It presents a cloud cuckoo land where the American dream is alive and skipping with a populace ready to burst into song at the drop of a hat.

Here, a traffic jam on a Los Angeles freeway is an excuse for a spontaneous party.

Here is a glossy world where the chief concerns are the demise of traditional jazz and the difficulty of breaking into Hollywood.

A world in which romance is not dead, racism doesn’t exist and where gender roles are well-defined. For two hours, we can pretend that all is well with the world and can exit the auditorium gushing that they do, after all, still make ’em like they used to.

It’s a movie that forgets it is a musical half way through and remembers just in time to concoct a grande finale but, just to show its post modernist edge, denies us the satisfaction of seeing our hero and heroine dancing off into the stars hand in hand.

In short, the mega-hyped La La Land is plastic, superficial and dumb. The perfect entertainment package served up as opium for the masses. An escapist yarn with the flimsiest of plots that the critics and audiences, desperate for distraction in these desperate times, are gleefully lapping up in their droves.

Not me!  I stand with the party poopers.


WHIPLASH directed by Damien Chazelle (USA, 2014)

“I wanna hear Caravan with a drum solo”  is a line, in the form of an aside, on The Mothers Of Invention’s ‘You’re Probably Wondering Why We’re Here’.

Frank Zappa’s wish is granted in spades for the finale of Whiplash although I doubt he ever envisaged it would look or sound anything like this.

The on-screen performance of this Jazz standard, made famous by Duke Ellington, is dominated by an extended solo by ambitious student Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) who is determined to prove a point to his demanding music instructor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons).

The solo seems to go on forever and we don’t get to see or hear the audience reaction; it wouldn’t surprise me if they had already gone home and left him to it!

The playing is so manic that it brings to mind the depiction of pianist David Heffcott’s mental breakdown during Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Concerto in the movie Shine. The obsessive, and bloody, practice sessions leading up to this climax are otherwise reminiscent of boxing movies like Raging Bull or Rocky. Continue reading

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