Producer’s Film Picks for January 2017
This month’s theme: Dreams and Other Misdemeanors
La La Land (2016)
Written and directed by Damien Chazelle
The films stars Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling and John Legend.
“Filming in glorious anamorphic CinemaScope and 35mm, Chazelle is offering up a tribute to the great Hollywood musicals of the ’40s and ’50s, and also, unmistakably, Jacques Demy’s great 1964 film The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which was itself an homage to those earlier movies. Like Demy, Chazelle recognizes that there was a great deal more realism and rue in those films than is popularly recognized. (The range of emotions in Meet Me in St. Louis is as great as in any dramatic film from that era.) He understands that it is possible to make piercingly personal movies within highly stylized, ‘artificial’ settings. This is why, when Mia (Stone) and Sebastian (Gosling) break into song and dance in “La La Land,” there is nothing laughable or antiquated in the attempt.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
“Perhaps La La Land will lead to a genuine musical revival, with more stars and talented artisans committing to the Technicolor escapism of old. For now, though, the film is a testament to how wonderful musicals can be when they’re conceived directly for the screen. Risk-averse studios keep turning to Broadway hits for safe bets, but film and theater are not compatible mediums, at least without some directorial imagination. Building on his two previous efforts, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench and Whiplash, Chazelle deftly integrates color and camera movement with the choreography of his performers, until all the elements are in pleasing harmony. Not many have Chazelle’s talent for summoning a dead form, but for as long as it lasts, La La Land is one hell of a séance.” Scott Tobias, GQ
“When Mia visits her family in Boulder City, there’s no family life whatsoever on view. Chazelle is interested in Mia not as a character or as a person but as an ornament, a symbol of a kind of dream and a kind of success, and he puts her into his film empty, leaving her to be filled solely by the personality and the talent of Stone herself—and it’s a mark of Stone’s artistry that she puts so much into so little. All the movie’s charm emerges from her performance. Even working with such thin material, she infuses passing events with candied inspiration, as when, flirting with Seb while he’s playing keyboards in a cheesy costume with a cheesy cover band at a pool party, she delivers the movie’s liveliest and most authentic moment, her lip-synch to the song she’d requested, “I Ran.” As for Seb, he does talk—and how and when he talks is yet another mark of Chazelle’s lumpish taste. Seb is obsessed with jazz—with classic jazz from, seemingly, the twenties through the fifties or early sixties.” Richard Brody, New Yorker
Pierrot le Fou (1965)
Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
The films stars Jean-Paul Belmondo, Anna Karina and Graziella Galvani.
“They flee Paris for the south of France in a hail of gunfire and Gauloises. They converse in disjointed, inhumanly droll patter, break into song, duff up gas station attendants and eagerly concoct a new civilisation on a deserted beach. Then, as their relationship begins to fray, it all goes horribly wrong…Basing his film ever so loosely on Lionel White’s pulp crime novel ‘Obsession’, Godard inventively drapes genre pastiche, literary references, flash inserts and cheeky agitprop over a robust ‘Bonnie and Clyde’-like framework to deliver a film which, in spirit, feels like both the sum total of his past work and an exhilarating sign of things to come.” David Jenkins, Time Out
Hail, Caesar (2016)
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.
The film stars Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, Channing Tatum, Frances McDormand and Jonah Hill.
“Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), the folksy young rodeo star of an acrobatic musical-Western, is inserted as the romantic lead of a drawing-room drama by the hyper-refined British director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes), whose name alone suggests a wide range of gags, which the Coens exploit to the hilt. The shimmery froth of a Busby Berkeley–like water-ballet musical stars a hardboiled and tough-talking hedonist (played by Scarlett Johansson with a chewy New York accent that’s a step from Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont in Singin’ in the Rain) whose pregnancy Eddie needs to finesse. There’s also a bouncy musical of sailors about to ship out, starring a popular song-and-dance man named Burt Gurney (Channing Tatum), who’s the subject of scurrilous gossip that Eddie works to suppress. For each of these movies, the Coens offer loving parodies—scenes from these films-within-a-film that suggest the hyperbolic rapture of an effective studio spectacle. They also delight in the range of idiosyncratic personalities that find unexpectedly free expression within the commercial strictures and hermetic confines of a movie studio—and, ultimately, the dramatic outcome of Eddie’s exertions depends greatly on the actual personalities of the studio’s celebrities, which turn out to mesh remarkably tightly with their onscreen personae.
“There’s also another belief system that comes to the fore, in scenes of Hollywood Communists (screenwriters, of course) who secretly pull some major strings at Capitol and with whom Eddie is ultimately forced to deal.” Brody
La La Land is currently showing at the Grand Cinema.
Pierrot le Fou will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, January 6 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
Hail, Caesar will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, January 13 in the CSL.
The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, January 18 in the CSL.