Saturday, 8 October 2016

LFF 2016 REVIEW - LA LA LAND (DAMIEN CHAZELLE)


Another day of sun, and another vacuous hipster expression of 'artistic integrity,' or, more accurately, the comical indecision of exactly what that entails. La La Land posits an argument about traditionalism vs. progression, though never seeks to resolve it, rather decorating each side of the discussion with hollow, borrowed devices and displays of flash and froth. This skin-deep approach may be sumptuous, but it's as vapid and as shallow as the culture it mistakenly mocks, while lifting one idea after another from it. Damien Chazelle is a forceful, decisive filmmaker, but there's little force to what he creates here, primarily due to the lack of actual creation. It's apparent from the very first image of a suited Ryan Gosling twiddling the radio knob in his vintage car, searching for some satisfactory jazz - this is nostalgia for its own sake, and indeed a false nostalgia, since it pines for times it knew not. La La Land intends to elicit joy in its audience, but what joy is there in such a strained, manufactured rehash of other artists' ideas? The inauthenticity is the sour aftertaste of the sweetness that pours out of the film, in sequences of real beauty and charm, and in Emma Stone's remarkable eyes. Aside from Chazelle's hypocrisy in the tributes his film purports to pay to fading art forms, there's an even more galling ignorance to La La Land, in its grand homage to a culture built upon the white identity, indeed at the expense of all else. The film unwittingly exposes a regressive attitude to its embrace of its various artistic influences, and places the white artist's desperate ennui at the futility of their obnoxious endeavours above all other concerns. Chazelle's land of dreams, city of stars, is as distant and ephemeral as those both, and uglier by far.