Cine Reviews: ‘La La Land’ (2016)

“Cinema is dead”, some say – crying out that there’s not much originality left in the field for filmmakers to milk out, and make opuses that would glare over the hearts of many through an enrapturing sense of artistic satisfaction – giving exactly what they want and need to fulfill their senses’ greatest desires. Captivation of the audience used to be a magical, delightful, and humanly influential spark that had been missing from this grand, imaginative art form, and it has since then, been yearned for decades – with critics praying for someone to deliver something that would wipe off the reeking messes that have stained all the gold. Once in a while, they do come. Some are memorable (game-changing even), while others possess the extreme ability of standing the test of time.


La La Land sees Whiplash director Damien Chazelle phenomenally visualizing and materializing perhaps the ultimate tribute to end all tributes to old Hollywood and cinema itself that regains our trust in having the theaters reel us back in – hogging the essence of what was once had, and stockpiling them in heaps and tons of grandeur. Imagine these greeting you, as you wait in your seat for a ride that would only blow you away: a newly-conceived film studio logo getting a nostalgic face-lift, the words “Presented in Cinemascope” getting flashed, and a sequence where music, bliss and humanity all intersect in one road that has them befriending each other;  People are seen dancing, singing, and getting unified by a powerful force that connects them all so beautifully. The title card bearing the film’s moniker suddenly graces the screen with a resonating bang, and then you start sensing where the film is getting at. It all feels classical, but in actuality, it does not fully dwell on the past as much as it suggests itself to be just one huge homage.


Rather, it resurrects what is claimed to be “dead” which is cinema and music themselves – shaping up what’s to come as we get effortlessly immersed in the sun-soaked extravaganzas of the spectacular kind that it initiates in a realm of warmness that takes you so close yet so far from reality. That sequence alone is a hypnotizing, toe-tapping rarity of its kind whose gene embedded into it obviously belongs to another era; it is a vibrant callback to the olden supported by a vintage-sounding paean serenaded by voices that reawaken the soul – getting you to jump on in and move along to the rhythms that you wouldn’t dare to resist. Simply put, no other film of today would make you feel the same emotions that La La Land would – patterning itself as a very special investment that has us reaching divine states of euphoria and dolor; manufacturing vivid memories glossed in timelessness that stems from the purity of the esteemed enthusiasm for cinema that truly satiates.


A zippy freshness upsurges, and it lasts through the bestowal of lush, encapsulating visuals showcasing the profound beaut of the art of film; cloaking up as a daring musical that plays within, and frivolously jumps over the boundaries of the norms – getting as cinematic as it could ever get, with every landscape having a soul to them, feeling larger and realer than life. Serving as a reminder that the cinema is the only and best venue to watch it all unfold, for it is in there where its fullest glory could be witnessed, as the experience that you take home with it is ultimately important; enticing in presenting to us the reality of why we should still go to the movies through the purest of movie magic shown so handsomely.


Paper-thin, its writing may look like to the eyes of some, but if one gets to really enjoy everything that goes around in its world that shows no signs of stopping in bringing out all of what’s been missing, then it just turns out to expand so vastly; stretching its narrative further, delving into different topics simultaneously, and in triumph too. Every other sequence and dialogue is tinged to be refreshing for the palate, while retaining slicked-back old-school dashes that would unavoidably catch a hardcore cinephile squealing in unrestrained glee as one gets sent off to a traversal that dives deeply into what the zealous filmmaker behind all the phenomenon has rooted in him – a beating heart and a soul that breathes soothingly, getting one caught up in a dizzying dream that fantasizes about the best things in life, and taking us into it for an irrepressible 2-hour break from the dull world that you’d definitely want to take for a spin over and over again.

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Apart from that, in this journey, we are escorted by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone who completely embrace their roles and unfetter from their usual style of acting that enraptures, and brings forth a sense of unpredictability that sees to it that the story of them being told gets unmasked – laying bare to vulnerable and extremely human characters that fiddle with the themes of “hopes” and “dreams” in a mien which deceivingly fabricates a magical tale that in a turn of events, dreamily, and audaciously bursts the bubble of optimism that had once populated their adorable personalities. Love is tackled amidst the other things in true old Hollywood fashion, complete with enamoring segments that tranquilizes and enchants — yet in the relationship that they and us get to indulge into in the span of four seasons, the main discourses that it wants to touch on, cinema and music, two vitalizing elements residing in human life are magnified as great monuments that make up one’s mold – revealing to us a quest that they  desire to take on through the accomplishment of their own dreams that births a dizzying state to get us lost in it.


Humanity is obviously what’s being juggled here among the other things that pull up the grander picture, and it gains glorious magnificence; fully besieging us in an artistically layered technicolor-land that honors the very things that are of great essence, going as far as heartily discussing the waves of power that have risen up that has everybody feeling determined – making us feel both whole and devastated as Mia (Stone) and Sebastian’s (Gosling)  tale progresses, and our emotions switch from one lane to the other just as this fantasy grows into a dream albeit one that we’ll remember so fondly – remarkably its opening and ending that exquisitely parallel each other; the former being a dreamy throwback and the latter wrapping up everything with a highly evocative trip to nostalgia lane which ends the film on a crescendo packing a grandiose wallop, bringing everything to a full, swirling circle of stupefaction.

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La La Land is a sweetly sung song you simply can’t get out of your head for days; an escape from reality that you wouldn’t want to end; a fancy, endlessly magnificent nostalgic trip to cinema’s glory days whose very heart bursts with enthrallment and a lot of passion that makes it deserving to jubilantly stand beside even the greatest of its kind. It has every making of an instant classic, with every second turning into a marvelous piece of perfected filmic composition whose every sprinkle of magic is inescapable and hypnotizing. Damien Chazelle indisputably scores another colossal hit, and stands on firm ground that models him as an innovator and prodigy of film – feeding on old standards and assembling a new paragon from it conducted so masterfully that it’s just simply too good for words. This is indeed the film brightens the future of cinema; asking us to dream and hope once again like it had done before.



  • La La Land is now showing in Philippine cinemas from Pioneer Films.

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