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quinta-feira, 8 de dezembro de 2016

La La Land is an all-singing, all-dancing Oscars frontrunner - review

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land CREDIT: DALE ROBINETTE


Director: Damien Chazelle; Starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Josh Pence, Finn Wittrock, JK Simmons. Cert 12A, 132 mins.
La La Land is a film about time travel, but there’s not a flux capacitor in sight. It’s set in present-day Los Angeles, but it’s about that city’s silvery past – which means Old Hollywood, and the dreams that place spun around the soul of any young hopeful with a pretty face, a sense of empathy or rhythm, and a yearning for the spotlight. 
At the film’s core are two of them. Mia (Emma Stone) is an aspiring actress behind a coffee shop till on the Warner Bros studio lot. Seb (Ryan Gosling) is a jazz pianist with half-formed but whole-hearted designs on a club of his own. Each has the talent to make a go of their dream. All they need is an opportunity. What they find is each other.
La La Land trailerWatch | La La Land trailer
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If that sounds like the kind of premise that was last in fashion in the 1960s – chapeau, Jacques Demy – rest assured writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) has built a period-appropriate movie around it. La La Land is a musical in the golden age style – and vehemently so from its very first scene, in which a queue of cars on a motorway flyover becomes the stage for a casually gob-smacking single-take opening number, with bored motorists leaping out of their vehicles and turning a traffic jam into a Fame-style, cartwheeling spectacle.
This is where Mia and Seb meet – the first cut comes when she spots him in her rear-view mirror – but neither one realises or remembers it. The encounter that stays with them comes a little later in a piano bar where Seb’s fired by his exacting manager (a talismanic cameo from JK Simmons, who played the band leader in Whiplash) for straying from the previously agreed set-list.
Stone and Gosling are two of the most naturally sweet stars working today, but together they’re like Diet Coke and Mentos – their chemistry actually feels chemical, or perhaps part of a new branch of particle physics that conducts invisible emotional lightning straight from their faces to your heart. 
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land CREDIT:  DALE ROBINETTE
Chazelle and his cinematographer Linus Sandgren (American Hustle) give their leads the kind of close-ups you want to dive into. Stone shines while Gosling smoulders – that’s the deal – and as their romance traverses a calendar year, from a baking hot winter to a prophetically named fall, the shifting state of their relationship plays on their faces as clearly as the seasons on a landscape.
The papery slightness of the plot simply isn’t an issue. (Mia chases after creative satisfaction with a one-woman stage show while Seb pursues commercial success, each with mixed results.) What matters is the feelings driving both of them onward – that fuel magic-hour tap dances, spotlit laments, and at one point, a waltz through the stars that takes off from LA’s Griffith Observatory shortly after the pair see it on a cinema screen at a repertory screening of Rebel Without a Cause.
Chazelle’s film has now screeched into pole position for next February’s Best Picture Oscar
It's categorically not pastiche – the film is sharply sincere about the sacrifices ambition demands, and its more directly dramatic passages hit home without a musical note. But whenever words don't seem enough, that’s where the songs come in – and as life gets better, it takes on the texture of a movie. 
Candlelit and neon-bathed rooms alike look they’re caught in flickering projector beams, while the string of a slowly swaying Foucault pendulum in the observatory scene becomes indistinguishable from a vertical scratch on a film print. In the astonishing final sequence – every bit as exhilarating as Whiplash’s drumroll climax, and openly invoking such classic MGM musicals as Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris – the film skips and taps out of reality completely, with the world itself becoming a kind of perfectly decorated film set through which our two lovers tumble and stumble ecstatically, as if they can’t believe life could be so picture-perfect.
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land CREDIT: DALE ROBINETTE
Meanwhile, the movie and music industries around them seem determined to miss the point, even as the faces of Ingrid BergmanJames Dean and Marilyn Monroe beam down at them benevolently from posters and faded murals. At a party, a screenwriter jabbers at Mia about his latest work-in-progress: “a reimagining of Goldilocks and the Three Bears from the perspective of the bears…it could be a franchise.” 
That’s the kind of line that should prod at both the hearts and guilt complexes of Academy voters, and is just one of many reasons Chazelle’s film has now screeched into pole position for next February’s Best Picture Oscar. But the joke’s a sincere one. La La Land wants to remind us how beautiful the half-forgotten dreams of the old days can be – the ones made up of nothing more than faces, music, romance and movement. It has its head in the stars, and for a little over two wonderstruck hours, it lifts you up there too.
La La Land is released in the US on December 9, and in the UK on January 13

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