Babel Review: The Magic and Misery of Movies | digital trends

“Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is a sprawling portrait of Hollywood in the late 1920s, and it just so happens to be one of the boldest and best films you’ll see this year.”

Positives

  • Damien Chazelle’s gritty visual style

  • Linus Sandgren’s brilliant and versatile cinematography

  • Performances by Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, and Li Jun Li steal the scene

cons

  • Many storylines feel lighter than others

  • Audio mix is ​​a bit annoying at times

  • A bold finale that doesn’t quite land

Much like the angry elephant raging through the opening party sequence, Damien Chazelle Babylon It is a wild monster movie. Over its 188 minutes of running time, the film maintains its cocaine-fueled frenzied pace even as it dives into moments of wild beauty, old-school melodrama, bitter rage, and perhaps most surprisingly of all – Lynchian horror. As an exploration of Hollywood’s corrupt origins, the film garnered plenty of inevitable comparisons to American epics like Paul Thomas Anderson. boogie nightswhich similarly charts the sexually insane ups and downs of one sector of the entertainment industry.

For his part, Chazelle often invites those comparisons. BabylonThe slick camera movements and angst-ridden editing look a lot like the visual bravura style displayed in its 1997 predecessor. Even one scene involving a yellow-toothed Tobey Maguire feels like a straight-up grit on the wrong set piece of the infamous drug deal that ends boogie nights‘ the other half. However, beyond their structural and visual similarities, there is very little that connects them Babylon to me boogie nights or casino Or any of the other American epics it has been compared to in recent weeks.

This is because Babylon He has a lot in common with magnoliaPaul Thomas Anderson’s impractical 1999 follow-up to boogie nights, more than any other movie. Both films are not just three-hour epics with many intersecting, intersecting storylines, but also attempts on the part of their respective writers and directors to understand how ugliness and beauty can co-exist simultaneously within the world and within each and every one of us. In case if BabylonChazelle produced a layered, ritualistic film that ultimately begs one simple question: Is it possible to simultaneously love movies and yet hate the industry that produces them?

Margot Robbie surfing at a party in Babylon.
Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures

Chazelle explores this conflict through all of the film’s characters, including Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), a silent movie star who is the unofficial king of Hollywood when Babylon It begins in the late 1920s. A womanizing drunk, whose belief in the power of cinema comes alternately arrogant and childish, Jack is invested in nothing more than pushing the boundaries of the silent film form. In other words, he’s totally unprepared for the major shift that will reshape Hollywood once sound enters the picture.

Jack isn’t the only one unprepared for what lies ahead. There’s also Nellie LaRue (Margot Robbie), an aspiring actress from the East Coast who arrives in Hollywood with little to her name except for her self-confidence and “star power.” Nellie soon gains the undying devotion of Manny Torres (Diego Calva), a Mexican immigrant who dreams of becoming a big wig in Hollywood. Manny crosses paths with Nelly while Babylonthe disgusting opening party sequence and the two soon bond over their shared ambitions. like manny, Calva turns in a deep and emotional performance and his role as BabylonThe audience’s surrogate only makes his eventual moral and romantic decay more poignant.

Nelly doesn’t just get Manny’s attention when she bumps into each other BabylonThe wild opening ceremony, filled with so many naked bodies, mountains of drugs, bottles of champagne and sex, that it is impossible not to be reminded of other highly focused films like The Wolf of Wall Street. Nellie’s wild, attention-grabbing dance across the gala’s main hall earns her a small part in the movie, as her undeniable screen presence and ability to cry on cue paves the way for her to become the next silent movie star.

Brad Pitt sits with Diego Calva in Babylon.
Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures

Hollywood’s inevitable transition from its silent era soon turns everyone’s world upside down. Nelly’s belief that she had finally escaped the kind of judgment that defined her early life, for example, was shattered once her voice and East Coast demeanor became a point of discussion among Hollywood elites. Likewise, Jack’s untouchable presence begins to unravel, while Manny is forced to comply with a number of soul-killing demands if he hopes to remain in the same realm of Hollywood he’s so long fought to break into.

After establishing herself as a multi-talented performer and multi-headline writer, Lady Fei Chu (scene stealer Lee Jun Lee) finds herself slowly being chased from the Hollywood system due to “concerns” about her sexual relations with women. Elsewhere, Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo), an accomplished trumpeter whose music briefly made him a Hollywood star, finally finds himself facing the kind of racist practices that have long been used to marginalize or keep people of color out of the film industry for decades.

For their parts, both Adepo and Li are cast in potentially star roles, though BabylonIts impressive runtime, it still feels like it was cut off during the editing process. Among the film’s supporting players, Jean Smart also easily steals a few scenes as Elinor St. BabylonThe best moments to give Pitt’s Jack a candid lesson in how Hollywood can guarantee a person’s immortality and see them as totally disposable at the same time.

Margot Robbie sits in the movie In Babylon.
Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures

After surgery in a consistently light mood for most BabylonThe first half of Pitt’s movie starts to shine once Jack’s identity crisis begins. Very few films have used Pitt’s clear blue eyes as well Babylon, which gives the actor a chance to quietly deliver some of his most watched and heartbreaking work to date. On the contrary, Margot Robbie never goes out of style Babylon’, which means that Nellie’s confident, fiery spirit in the first half of the movie eventually turns into a kind of raw, manic, puffy-cheeked desperation.

Behind the camera, Chazelle is as visually commanding as ever. reunion with La La Land Cinematographer Linus Sandgren, Chazelle filled in Babylon With some of the most elaborate camera movements and crane shots of his career, including one last-minute swipe across a crowded movie theater that’s technically impressive, it’s impossible not to be amazed. The film’s heavy focus on blues, whites, and bright reds also infuses it with a visual energy that matches its screwball’s high pace. Meanwhile, editor Tom Cross, every so often, cuts several scenes and stitches them together, injecting Babylon A fast pace that makes its massive runtime fly by incredibly fast.

The film’s visual and geographic relationship to La La LandChazelle’s earlier thesis on the power of films, was also translated at some points by composer Justin Hurwitz for loud, free jazz. Together, Hurwitz and Chazelle reuse certain themes and motifs from La La Landwhich only makes the sloppy and rough nature of the Babylon It feels like a sharp callback to the more polished, cleaner exploration of Hollywood that Chazelle delivered back in 2016. Then all the movie’s thoughts about Hollywood and filmmaking end in a finale that’s so sassy and operatic that it’s practically impossible not to. To be surprised by Chazelle’s, well, gumption.

Brad Pitt sits across from Lee Jun Lee in Babylon.
Scott Garfield / Paramount Pictures

fact that BabylonThe finale does not work completely off topic. What’s more important is the impetuous, French New Wave-inspired energy that pours through the film’s final moments, which not only recall the work of filmmakers like Godard and Truffaut, but also Paul Thomas Anderson, who chose back in 1999 to wrap up most of his work. Los Angeles epic epic by having frogs literally fall from the sky. while BabylonThe finale isn’t as fantastic or surreal as that, it just oozes a similar kind of grit. For better or worse, it’s hard to imagine Chazelle ending Babylon any other way than it.

Across the film’s hefty three-hour runtime, but very ambivalently, Chazelle expresses both his reverence and dislike for movies. The true brilliance of BabylonHowever, the film’s finale lies in how he clearly sees that any attempt to understand how someone can love and hate movies at the same time will ultimately fail. Movies, after all, are just as inexplicable as the people who watch them.

Babylon | 2022 Movie Official Trailer – Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Tobey Maguire

Given the conditions under which it is produced, no movie should work, and yet many do. in a BabylonDamien Chazelle tries to ask why – only to give up when he realizes, to his horror and bewilderment, that there is no answer to that question. There’s only the silver screen and you’re sitting there, looking at it, crying even when your best self knows you shouldn’t. Ha! Movie magic.

Babylon It is now playing in theaters nationwide.

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