joi, 26 ianuarie 2023

Babylon (2022)

Hollywood, Cal. The year is 1926, the world was cool and the movies were silent...well, they also shot Horses, didn't they? ;)

Welcome to Babylon, a film abut excess, ambition, dreams and nightmares together, the fourth feature of Damian Chazelle (now 38) after the succeses of Whiplash, La La Land and (so/so) First Man. 

A self-indulgent epic especially in the end montage of 'joie du cinema', which I could've done without (and most of us think about the same!!!), 3 hours long (and 9 minutes) but for me could've been longer ;). 

It's also rough and vulgar and decadent and loud, just like those times were supposed to be. Or so thinks Chazelle. Here's an interview with him explaining the sources and history of Babylon. 

Brad Pitt is silent movie star, Jack Conrad, modelled especially after John Gilbert...He's mostly Brad Pitt and that suffices plenty. 

Margot Robbie is the 'It' girl, Nellie LaRoy, made upon Clara Bow. She also has a scene that's sooo reminiscent of her playing Sharon Tate in Once Upon a Time in...Hollywood.. She's gorgeous and uber sexy, but she's kinda too modern and too sexy... 

The Mexican dude, Manny Torres (Diego Calva), I guess it's a composite.

The afro-american trumpet player Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) too. These may seem like 'Woke' characters, but actually they were there then.

Lady Fay Zhu (Li Jun Li) is inspired by Anna Mae Wong, the first Asian star of Hollywood (she later went to Europe). 

The film makes the transition from the silent age to the talkies, borrowing plenty from 1952's Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen masterwork, Singin' in the Rain.

Other inspirations: the infamous classic book Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger, Peter Bogdanovich's Nickelodeon, John Schlesinger's Day of the Locust (two Paramount productions as this one is, even starting with the old black and white logo, but using Kinescope as a substitute of the studio). 

There's a comparison of Hollywood with a jungle, an Animal Kingdom, from the elephant at the beginning to a lizard, a rattlesnake, an alligator. Where's the Monkey? Well, plenty on the screen, from the extras to the actors themselves.

There's cameos of the era VIP's, from Irving Thalberg (Max Minghella) To Marion Davies and WR Hearst, to even Patty Arbuckle. I guess the German director should be Erich Von Stroheim. Also nice to see Eric Roberts in an A picture again, he plays Margot's father, Robert Roy. 


If I would've seen the film in 2022 (it opened for Xmas in the US but only beg. Jan. WW) it would've made made my Top Movies of the year list, even flawed as it is...It got mixed reviews,  loved the SF Gate calling it 'the worst movie of the year' and quote:

`It is like “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” if Quentin Tarantino directed it as a teenager.'

Got 5 noms and a Golden Globe for best music (Justin Horwitz, Chazelle's collaborator on all his fares) and only 3 Oscar nominations tho (music, which might win, set design and costumes). More generous with the Brits at BAFTA -8 noms (including cinematography and editing, which I think were shunned :(). Horwitz's score has some cues from La La Land, mixed with Fellini's Nino Rota circus music and Mussorgsky's Night on a Bald Mountain. And a song about a certain pussy...

3 1/2 out of 5 - 7 out of 10

“Careers come and go, and movie stars come and go. That, on some level, is very scary, and it can even be depressing. But on another level, and hopefully this is where Manny kind of reaches a place of peace at the end, it's comforting, because you can’t help but be aware of how much bigger it is than you, and how you’re a part of something bigger. Just to be a small part of that is, in its own way, really special and eternal.”

Damien Chazelle in EW 

And here's Chazelle's screenplay for the film, in it's entirety.

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