Toronto International Film Festival
The latest bit of movie-musical pastiche from Damien Chazelle could be alternatively titled All the Oscars!, eager as it is to please those who might vote it into the AMPAS pantheon. But gilded statuettes aren’t the only thing on this Los Angeles-set film’s mind. La La Land is also out to win over the cinema-savvy and, to a lesser degree, the jazz aficionados who likely complained about Whiplash’s bebop point of reference being white guy Buddy Rich. (Based on co-star Ryan Gosling’s painfully inadequate basso warbling, though, vocal coaches aren’t on the writer-director’s list to impress.)
Chazelle wears his influences proudly. As in his first feature, 2009’s charmingly slight musical romance Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, Jacques Demy hovers over the proceedings like a patron saint. The French director loved melancholy as much as he loved music. In films like 1964’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and 1967’s The Young Girls of Rochefort, he fused the fancifulness of old Hollywood song-and-dance productions with the soul-searing emotions brought on by broken hearts and dreams too big to bear fruit.