The writer and director Damien Chazelle was just under 13 when Boogie Nightsthe epic of the porn industry and second work of Paul Thomas Anderson, debuted to rapturous applause. That film, so fresh, vivid and high on cocaine, helped establish Anderson as one of the new American greats, tapping into the indie energy of the 90s and paying homage, like many others, to Martin Scorsese.
Twenty-five years later, Chazelle is an award-winning directorOscars (a feat Anderson has yet to accomplish) and engages in a reimagining of Anderson’s modern classic. (Obviously, without forgetting to tip your hat to Scorsese.) His new film, in theaters from January 19this called Babylon. A glimpse on Hollywood of the end of the twentieswhen the film industry raged in the balance between the realm of the era of mute and the revolution of sonorous. Chazelle’s vision of that period, like Anderson’s of the San Fernando Valley in the late 1970s, is that of a party which is celebrated on the verge of a abyss.
At the beginning of Babylonwe see a long rundown on a boisterous bacchanal in a remote California mansion. Breasts in the wind, booze and white powder flowing in rivers, a poor young starlet overdoses and must be carried out of the house with the utmost discretion. This scene ties back almost directly to an opening scene from Boogie Nights. As well as the subsequent nightmarish descent of Babylon in crime and depravity mirrors the sequence of Alfred Molina in Boogie Nights. (Another sequence was copied, but to insist on this convergence would ruin both films).
Maybe Chazelle deliberately decided to graft the Anderson model (and, yes, of Scorsese) in a different environment, or maybe it’s just coincidence. In any case, i parallels are inevitable, e Babylon it doesn’t make money. Very far from Anderson’s constant control, Chazelle moves his film in jerks and strokes, passing fromhumor unleashed at nostalgia melancholy within minutes, sometimes even seconds.
His cast of characters is raw and archetypal at the same time: a wide-eyed rookie (the Manny Torres of Diego Calva), a ingénue rebel (the Nellie LaRoy of Margot Robbie), a faded legend about to end its run (the Jack Conrad of Brad Pitt). We only know these people for what they represent, Chazelle is too busy overloading his film with virtuosity stylistic and tiring gag visuals for drawing complex characters.
Babylon he is poorly concentrated and too impatient, constantly distracted by theexplosion of a new idea. This could also be read as an apt metaphor for the manic thinking produced by a cocaine binge, but there is something terribly studied in the way Chazelle evokes that adrenal frenzy scratching the nostrils. The theatrical effort from drug movie Of Babylon it seems based more on what has been absorbed from other films than anything as practical and specific as an actual experience.
Chazelle has never been to the moon, yet in First Man of 2018 offered us a magnificent and poignant scene on that lonely rock. But that film had the advantage of moving between majesty and transcendence. The squalor Of Babylon it doesn’t suit the director’s sensibilities, no matter how many torrents of shit, piss, vomit and blood he lets flow into the frame. He becomes all show with little visceral payoff, like at a teen party where you drink light draft beer and then have to pretend you’re staggering drunk.
In Babylon there are moments that leave their mark. Jean Smartplaying a gossip columnist à la Hedda Hopper, delivers a bittersweet monologue about the immortality of cinematic fame, which for the listener is both a small comfort and a heartbreaking confirmation of obsolescence. Li Jun Li, who plays a character loosely inspired by Anna May Wong, moves through the film as an emblem of everything that was pushed to the sidelines at the time and has since been largely forgotten. There are also many beautiful shots in the film, when Chazelle allows the cinematographer images Linus Sandgren to penetrate and fixate for a while on the big screen.
They are small islands in a sea of mannered chaos and you begin to feel while Babylon stretches for three hours and eight minutes, that Chazelle doesn’t have a clear idea where this is all going. He introduces a jazz trumpeter, who has the face of Jovan Adepo, and then seems to forget about him. The character of Calva, who eventually becomes a production company executive, hangs around in the film as something of an audience surrogate, but is mostly sidelined to allow Robbie and Pitt to meet the showmanship needs of the audience. movie.
What is said here, exactly? A long sequence in which Nellie tries and fails to find her bearings during the shooting of her first talking film directs the film towards an intriguing plan: what happened to all those silent idols that, when production moved indoors and outsiders could hear their voices, they collapsed and burned? However, Chazelle soon interrupts the intriguing tension of that moment, suffocating it in an explosion of profane and histrionic to then make it culminate in the scene of a tragicomic deatheven meaningless.
It’s only in the film’s mournful final moments that Chazelle veers towards a cloying message: movies are magical, real? While a character watches Singing in the rain from the balcony of a movie theater – you see, Singing in the rain speaks of the problematic transition to sound cinema, such as Babylon; maybe Babylon it’s even an origin story from that film – his eyes just glaze over from astonishment And affection. Although Chazelle has just spent three hours showing us heinousness and rot, the dirty riot of Babylon led to simply this: a greeting to the cinema in the style of so many past Oscar ceremonies. Maybe the Hollywood lesson more relevant than the film is precisely this: whatever has come before, you can always end a film with the easiest of sentimental notes and all will be forgotten. Almost a century after the era of Babylonthe old tricks are still used.
Source: Vanity Fair
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