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Jazz, Hollywood and Love Stories: The Cinema of Damien Chazelle
17 December, 2017

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Home / Cinema  / Jazz, Hollywood and Love Stories: The Cinema of Damien Chazelle

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Jazz, Hollywood and Love Stories: The Cinema of Damien Chazelle

Hollywood has a new young and brilliant son. His name is Damien Chazelle. With his last movie La La Land, he collected 14 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director.

2 minutes

 

Hollywood has a new young and brilliant son. His name is Damien Chazelle. With his last movie La La Land, he collected 14 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Two years ago, Chazelle achieved a great success with Whiplash, nominated for Best Picture and winner of the Oscars for Best Film Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

 

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench © 2010 Variance Films

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench © 2010 Variance Films

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

We can see the main traits of his style from his first movie, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, winner of the Jury Price at 2009 Torino Film Festival. Firstly, the passion for jazz music, developed when he was studying drums at Princeton High School and secondly, his love for classic Hollywood musicals. Guy and Madeline is a love story between a jazz trumpeter and a girl looking for work. In this movie, Chazelle shows a series of jazz performances and tap dance choreographies, all in black and white, using a documentary style.

 

Whiplash © 2014 Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash © 2014 Sony Pictures Classics

Whiplash

Whiplash is a movie about a guy who wants to become a great jazz drummer, who’s ready to sacrifice everything to reach his aim. He meets an unyielding teacher who believes that hard work is the only price for greatness and puts the boy under a lot of pressure. The perfect editing of this movie underlines strongly the rhythm of the music, assuring dynamism and dramatic tension to the story.
The soundtracks for both movies were composed by Justin Hurwitz, who studied with Chazelle at Harvard University. When Chazelle and Hurwitz moved to Los Angeles, they began to think about a modernized version of the old-fashioned musical set in that city. So, the idea of La La Land was born.

 

La La Land © 2016 Lionsgate

La La Land © 2016 Lionsgate

La La Land

«There is something very poetic about a city that is built by people with these unrealistic dreams», says Chazelle in an interview. Just like Guy and Madeline, La La Land is a love story between a jazz musician (a pianist) and a girl. He dreams of opening his own jazz club, but can’t find the money for his project, while she aspires to become an actress, but fails every audition and instead serves cappuccinos in a coffee shop. The entire movie is a declaration of love to the golden age of Hollywood and Los Angeles is the wonderful and enchanting set of the story. «The main problem», said Chazelle, «was to find a balance between the film’s fantastical, romantic musical numbers and its story about a young couple trying to achieve their dreams».
This problem was solved perfectly by the director of photography, Linus Sandgreen, who used as much natural light as possible, avoiding digital effects. Unlike Whiplash, Chazelle does not use a rapid and delirious rhythm of editing, but adopts many single takes that give a great freedom of movement to the main characters during their songs and dances, as if they were on an immense theatre stage.

 

The movie lacks only one thing: the two characters are so immersed in a sparkling whirl of music, dance, choreographies, and incredible lights and colors, and it seemed as if they did not have time to “breathe”, to be examined in depth, especially in the first half of the movie. The screenplay does not have the same strength and dramatic tension of Whiplash, but this is partially justified by the characteristics of its genre. However, the weaknesses of the screenplay are resolved perfectly by the splendid direction of Chazelle, who has surely created an unforgettable movie and a personal tribute to the art of Cinema.

 


Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench poster - UberAura Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Jason Palmer, Desiree Garcia, Sandha Khin, Karen Adelman, Anna Chazelle, Bernard Chazelle, Gonzalo Digenio, Frank Garvin, Eli Gerstenlauer, Jerry Quinn
Year: 2009
Trailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

whiplash-poster-uberauraDirector:  Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey 
Year: 2014
Trailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La La Land poster - UberAura Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer:  Damien Chazelle
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Rosemarie DeWitt, J.K. Simmons, Claudine Claudio, Amiée Conn, Terry Walters, Callie Hernandez, Jessica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Jason Fuchs
Year: 2016
Trailer

 

 

 

 

Review overview

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