Telluride 43: “La La Land”

“La La Land,” which was very well-received at the Telluride Film Festival, has recently received some Best Film awards. Director Damien Chazelle (“Whiplash”) continues his unique use of music with a contemporary film musical. He also wrote the screenplay. Chazelle’s film shows the influence of classic MGM musicals like “The Band Wagon”. It also has the bright colors of “The Umbrella of Cherbourg” and the emotional conflicts of a musician as in “New York, New York”.

The film begins with a terrific and energetic large scale musical number set during a Los Angeles freeway morning traffic jam. “La La Land” centers on Mia, a would-be actress (a charismatic Emma Stone) and Sebastian, an uncompromising jazz pianist, (Ryan Gosling). As in other movies, after some hostile introductions, an attraction develops between the two.

"La La Land"

“La La Land”

Stone and Gosling who have worked together before have a strong on-screen chemistry and bring deep feeling to their characterizations. Stone is a better singer than Gosling. Mia keeps hoping for her big break while Sebastian struggles to continue to play the kind of music he loves, a jazz he’s told is dying. John Legend plays a musician friend of Sebastian.

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in "La La Land"

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in “La La Land”

Chazelle is far more inventive in the elaborate song and dance scenes than with the with the predictable and often derivative screenplay that follows a lot of film conventions like the struggling heroine who shares an unbelievably large and colorful apartment with her room-mates, big enough for an spirited musical number that leads up to a lively party scene.

The clever and varied songs were composed by Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Chazelle is effective in staging the charming and more intimate musical numbers between Stone and Gosling, including a magical sequence set in the Griffith Observatory planetarium that reflects the characters’ soaring emotions.

Emma Stone at Telluride     (c) Ed Scheid

Emma Stone at Telluride (c) Ed Scheid

The film ends with a clever, extremely well-edited sequence, finishing the film on a note of poignancy.

Damien Chazelle and Emma Stone participated in an outdoor panel at Telluride. Chazelle discussed using storyboard in planning the complicated musical numbers.

Damien Chazelle at Telluride    (c) Ed Scheid

Damien Chazelle at Telluride (c) Ed Scheid


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Telluride 43: Isabelle Huppert in “Things to Come”

In “Things to Come”, Isabelle Huppert gives another masterful performance in a continually impressive career.

Unlike many of her roles which had a bizarre aspect, her character in this French film is Nathalie, a professor and author leading a calm and comfortable life which is unexpectedly thrown into turmoil. Her husband (Andre Marcon) leaves her, her mother (Edith Scob) is moved to a nursing home, and she is forced to confront more changes. Nathalie visits a commune where a former student resides.

Isabelle Huppert at the Telluride Film Festival  (c) Ed Scheid

Isabelle Huppert at the Telluride Film Festival (c) Ed Scheid

Huppert brings an emotional depth to Nathalie. Her close-ups are particularly expressive and intense. A scene where she unexpectedly views her ex-husband and his new partner is memorable.

Director Mia Hansen-Love, who was chosen Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival gives a potent sense of the details of Nathalie’s life, like her strong attachment to her favorite books. Hansen-Love, who also wrote the screenplay, effectively contrasts the crowded urban life of Nathalie with the quiet rural setting of the commune where she can contemplate her new life.

Isabelle Huppert at the Telluride Film Festival with moderator Annette Indorf  (c) Ed Scheid

Isabelle Huppert at the Telluride Film Festival with moderator Annette Indorf (c) Ed Scheid

At an outdoor panel at Telluride, Huppert said that her job as an actress is to show the emotional state of the character at a point of time and it is up to a film to connect these points. Both she and Hansen-Love are extremely successful collaborating in “Things to Come”, making the transformations of Nathalie’s life very compelling.

Isabelle Huppert at the Telluride Film Festival  (c) Ed Scheid

Isabelle Huppert at the Telluride Film Festival (c) Ed Scheid