After Whiplash if anyone had doubts about Damien Chazelle’s talent as a director with vision, they should give La La Land a look. Even though it’s not with as voracious an energy as Whiplash, it has charm and ambiance that take you on a ride that might not blow you away; the film, instead, tries a different approach then Whiplash, painting a canvas of a world imbued with fantasy that never really let’s go of reality.
Also written by Chazelle, the romantic musical-drama has a firm grip on its main theme of finding one’s place in the sun. The idea, bursting out of everyone, is blazingly conveyed in the film’s opening sequence in a Los Angeles freeway traffic jam, where the commuters jump out and sing and dance about their dreams, aspirations and what they have on the line in the peppy musical number Another Day Of Sun. Shot beautifully with a crane and just three cuts, the way the film is edited and executed becomes a recurring theme. Chazelle keeps the shots long and edits the cuts clean throughout.
As the opening song says, our leads are not an exception to the theme; Mia (Emma Stone a star that shines brightest), in a Prius, is a barista, but wants to be an actress. Driving a Buick convertible on the same freeway is, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), an emphatic jazz pianist who plays Christmas carols in restaurants, and later, is in a party-band that gigs at end gatherings. They meet clash, and repeat the circle, while singing and dancing their feelings for each other in what is their idealistic part of life, in a setting right out of Hollywood’s golden musical years of the 40s and 50s.
Then as the movie progresses, they mature and their musical numbers are reduced while the two again try to find themselves and a place for each other in the world of dreams that is LA.
Beautifully made, with definite colors and moods as a visual narrative device, the film carries on its dream-like state of a world where most probably not all dreams will come true; here, as in the real-world, you will leave things, get others, and move on.
The metaphor for LA is that of a perpetual limbo (also the LA of the title); here the weather doesn’t change, nor does the setting and time belong to any era in particular. The era in the film is irrelevant and unheeding to technology – regardless of the Priuses or the iPhones.
A quality score from Justin Hurwitz with floating dream-like cinematography by Linus Sandgren, La La Land is a quality film in a season of quality films. •
La La Land is a quality film in a season of quality films.
Mel Gibson with Hacksaw Ridge proves in big ways that he still has the chops in the direction seat. He may not be subtle with his selection of story or its visual narrative, but he is a master of his element, who knows how to put a movie together and not lose the aesthetic.
The movie is based on a true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a conservative Christian from Virginia at the time of the WWII, who joins the Army to serve as combat medic. He won’t kill anyone or learn to kill, which means not even touching a rifle in training. By the end of his military career, Doss stands tall as a conscientious objector and a person who served his country.
The movie pans out from his childhood with his brother, an alcoholic father (Hugo Weaving) who still suffers from emotional trauma of WWI and a suffering devout religious mother (Rachel Griffiths) who suffers marital abuse but still keeps the family together. As the Second World War began, he finds love with local nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), but still signs up with the military. The calling, for him, is righteous and morally obligatiory.
From then on the real movie starts: it’s a conflict that is rebellious for the military, where someone joins but would not take up arms. For Doss it’s filling a noble right that he can’t ignore. He gets bullied by his fellow trainees and is pressured by his Sergeant (Vince Vaughn) and Captain (Sam Worthington) to leave the military, or adhere to the norm. He ultimately gets to Okinawa, Japan to a steep cliff called the Hacksaw Ridge and saves lives while not taking any.
It has been 10 years since Apocalypto – Gibson’s last movie as director. Hacksaw Ridge has a classic war movie narrative and it starts with a war ravaged scene, soldiers rally in a grey landscape of a bombed warzone lit up by hot orange fire (shot ably by Simon Duggan). The scene is jarring but effective in delivering the message that Gibson is alive and kicking. There are enough limbs and carnage to make even Tarantino blush in an entire scene later in the movie.
Hacksaw Ridge paints Doss as a Christian iconographical symbol, who saves Japanese wounded soldiers as well as his own. After saving a soldier alone for a whole night, he is washed as if baptised, and finally hoisted down from the cliff, as if ascending the sky. From Gibson’s hand, though, it all looks powerful. •
Mel Gibson with Hacksaw Ridge proves in big ways that he still has the chops in the direction seat
Fences has a force that grabs hold of you and takes you through life, and rhythm of the people it encloses – their trials, conflicts, emotions and betrayal, it will take you through them all, only letting go when it relieves itself of its own burden. It is powerful and filled with sorrow – one where you can’t help but let the tour de force of its verbiage, mannerism and personalities wash you over.
Adapted from the late August Wilson’s play of the same name, (whose screenplay he had completed before his demise), the Pulitzer Prize decorated play was sixth in a 10-part series of plays, which chronicles African American lives in Pittsburgh through the ages. It’s an extremely inclusive and engulfing view of a family in the 50s lower suburban area, where life runs on routine – a cycle that is repeated in the broader sense; lives are lived, evolving from laughter to tears to new lives and deaths between one Friday to the next.
The story begins with Troy Maxson (Denzel Washington) and his friend Jim Bono (Stephen Henderson), coming back from their day job of hauling trash on a Friday. With paychecks in their pockets, and heady with liquor, they sit in Troy’s backyard joined by his wife Rose (Viola Davis). The banter goes around everything under the sky, however, the showman in the company is Troy, who has a disposition of believing that he is the sun to his family, and everyone needs to revolve around him. When things go out of his way of thinking how the world is run, he has a penchant to collide and destroy.
As per the title, the plot puts subliminal, and yet apparent, fences around a few key people. Each has an effect on the other, with Denzel’s being the strongest, voluminous influence. Washington also directs with intelligence, keeping things minimal on screen so that he may distract from the actors. He lets the camera follow people and their talk like one of the family, just listening in but not intruding. Viola Davis is a genius, with sorrow and love radiating from every fibre of her being. Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), Troy’s mentally challenged brother, Lyons (Russell Hornsby), his son from a previous marriage, and Cory (Jovan Adepo) his son with Rose – who he won’t let shine – round off the cast. Everyone brings a familiarity and weight to their roles; the reason could also be, that beside Jovan, the rest of the cast reprise their roles from the 2010 stage play.
It’s a verbally heavy movie – these are stories that communicate feelings. They are not just words in the sand, but rather stone carvings that leave marks even after times change in one’s heart and soul.
Besides its verbosity, the physical language of the cast speaks from an emotion on its own; it’s a perfect synchronisation of actor and written material – a dance between words, where sentiments result from a harmony of talent that is not often seen. Fences is a brilliant movie filled with humanity, its failures and triumph. •
Fences is a brilliant movie filled with humanity, its failures and triumph
After Whiplash if anyone had doubts about Damien Chazelle’s talent ....Read Detail
A feature directorial debut by Katie Holmes, All We Had is a tale of ...Read Detail