​© Alison Chang

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Do Re Me Fa La La Land

December 29, 2016

Holy wowza! Step aside, "She's the Man", Alison's got a new favourite movie now. 


This is my second time seeing Damien Chazelle's La La Land (in theatres everywhere January 6th!) and it still managed to make me want to dance and sing and smile. I've been waiting to see this again ever since I first saw it weeks ago at Arclight in Los Angeles. I simply had to bring my family along so we could share in the experience.


First things first. If you're going to see this movie, make sure that the theatre you go to has great sound. Having seen this film at Arclight with phenomenal sound quality and again at the Cineplex VIP Cinemas in Toronto, it makes a huge difference. You want to be able to pick out all the musical details.


Second, this film is well-deserving of all of its praise. SPOILERS AHEAD!


Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling's performances are, as always, incredible. The two have an undeniable filmic chemistry and they truly committed themselves to the roles. Gosling practiced for three hours a day before filming, learning how to play piano in those long shots. That's really him playing! As someone who has studied piano for years, it's not easy to learn jazz and then to play it flawlessly in front of an entire camera crew. I have yet to perfect both. They had months of dance rehearsals before the actual shoot, and I can only imagine the pressure to try and get those long takes perfect, because if there's a misstep or a flub, you can't just cut it out. You've got to reset everything, lights included (I'll talk about those later) and shoot everything from the top. It's hard. 


But oh, the music. Justin Hurwitz's haunting melody for Mia and Sebastian's theme gave me shivers, and I couldn't stop listening to "Another Day of Sun" after I saw the film and embarrassingly dancing to it on the street where I live. In public. (Seriously. Ask my roommate.) The score is beautiful and nails it on the head when it comes to evoking that special magic of old Hollywood. If you're looking for some fun big band Hollywood jazz, check out the "Hollywood Red Carpet" album on Spotify. It's hilariously named, but has exactly that kind of grandiose sound that I've missed so much.


And who can forget the stunning visuals? Everything from costumes to lighting comes together to create a technicolor world. There are a few moments when Sebastian is playing the piano and the lights in the room dim, and a spotlight appears on him from the other side. The result is a white spot that pools around him, creating a perfect silhouette of this jazz piano player. The image is an outline, a moving outline, and reminded me much of the old zoetropes that you would see (those moving wheels with pictures inside, and if you spun it fast enough, it looked like the images were moving). Even in Mia's song "Audition", camera pushes in while the lights fade, leaving her and nothing else, and the moment is so vulnerable that it's beautiful. (And, as an actress, I can totally relate.) The costumes at the beginning pop with so much colour, and as Mia begins to lose hope in her dreams, her outfits seem to lose their saturation, the colour being drawn out of her along with her hope. At the beginning, she's seen in the stunning blue dress or the yellow one, and in "Audition", she's dressed in a  pale blue sweater. Even the character transformation is reflected in the costuming, and done in a way that still blends with the whole "technicolor film" theme. 


Overall the movie is gorgeous in every aspect, and I will most likely be seeing it again. And again. And again.


"So bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters and poets and plays, and here's to the fools who dream, crazy as they may seem." -Mia, "Audition"



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