The Brilliance of “La La Land”

La La Land, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who’s also made the musical drama called Whiplash, has gotten a lot of praise recently. Because of this, and the Oscars luring right behind the corner, I’ve decided to write this article.

La La Land has been praised for numerous items: for its directing, acting, writing, music… The list goes on and on and I want to dwell on a couple of the categories. I’ve already briefly mentioned the camera movements of this film in my article called why camera movements are important to film. If you want to read something more on that subject, you can click here.

Songs are quite important to a musical, so with La La Land, you’d expect it to have good songs, which is of course true. But the brilliance doesn’t lie within the songs, even though some would say that the songs were written brilliantly with which I can agree to a certain extent, it lies with the genre the songs were written in: Jazz. Why? Might be a question that pops up in your head around now, which is very understandable and I’ll answer it in just a minute, but to explain the statement I’m going to make, we have to take a quick dive into the history of Jazz.  To do this, I’m going to quote Wikipedia:

“Jazz is a music genre that originated amongst African Americans in New Orleans, United States, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since the 1920s jazz age, jazz has become recognized as a major form of musical expression. It emerged in the form of independent traditional and popular musical styles, all linked by the common bonds of African American and European American musical parentage with a performance orientation.  Jazz is characterized by swing and blue notes, call and response vocals, polyrhythms and improvisation.”

The last word of that quote is quite important: improvisation. It happens on the spot, it happens spontaneous, not forced, it is improvisated. Instruments play on each other and give each other their own time to shine.  Now, why is jazz a well-chosen genre for the film? Well, in musicals normally people just burst out into singing, without any introduction, and without any meaning, but in La La Land, that isn’t the case. La La Land utilizes the genre that they’ve chosen, and let their songs be spontaneous and feel like they are, which is why I believe that La La Land can be seen on some points as “brilliant”.

There are of course other reasons why this film was good, but this is the one thing I want to shine the light on, because this will probably go over the head of the average viewer, even though this was brilliantly chosen, in my opinion. Do I think the film is as good as everyone is praising it? No. It is a good film, but not nearly as good as other films that came out last year. The performances and directing were good, so were the characters, but the story did contain some clichés here and there.

Note: all of this is my opinion, and this could be totally wrong.

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