The invention of the movie camera meant a new way of telling stories. First everyday scenes were filmed, without a story because seeing moving images was enough to keep crowds entertained. But slowly stories started to get told and it was a natural step for plays to be translated into the movie format. As directors played more and more with movie techniques and film developed its own language, the theatrical way of showing things disappeared and the movies were something completely different from theater. Both in the way it looks and experience.
Still you could say that the musical movie is still a little strange in the wide field of genres, because people suddenly burst out singing and it never feels natural (at least it never happens to me that I suddenly come across a group of people who burst out in song, but maybe I just live in the wrong part of town?). Still, a good musical will be able to mesmerize and make you forget you are watching a movie. Moana is a good example of that, an animated movie which has a lot of songs and where it never stands out. It adds something to the experience. La La Land is the latest movie by Damien Chazelle, who previously was responsible for the fantastic Whiplash. The perfect director to make a musical, as he is able to make music visually attractive and make you forget everything around you. Does he succeed with this film telling the story about Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), who meet each other and both have dreams who seem hard to realize.
La La Land wants to bring back the feeling of the classic dance movies, like Singin’ in the Rain. That becomes clear by the titles which are used and the Cinemascope logo which starts the movie and of course the way the dance scenes have been shot (often with dreamy backgrounds). Still, it doesn’t manage to reach the same level as the classics. Gosling and Stone won’t make your jaw drop by watching their dancing. The scene which is shown on the poster is a good example of that. The choreography has to be perfect and they should dance in harmony, which isn’t the case at various moments, making it feel a bit sloppy. The music itself is, except for one song, not memorable enough and I didn’t exit the cinema humming the songs. That doesn’t mean this is a movie you shouldn’t see. Chazelle does do some magic and brings some impressive moments to the screen which must have taken ages to plan and prepare. Gosling leaned to play the piano for the film and plays so well that I regularly started wondering if any CGI trickery was used. Emma Stone proves during various auditions in the film that her character does what a great actress she is. Those are enough reasons you should see this film, but La La Land tries a bit too much too lean on the past and the story unfortunately isn’t strong enough to really convince me.