Margot Robbie & Damien Chazelle's Hollywood Epic "Babylon"

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Damien Chazelle inspires a Nolan-esque devotion among cinephiles, and he’s giving his core audience what they want in Babylon

Not that his previous features Whiplash and La La Land were for the elite. Far from it. But his emphasis on greatness longing to be achieved and his stylistic yearning for times past has especially endeared him to some of the most visible and vocal of those who exalt film as their great passion.

La La Land was a passion project no doubt, but Babylon is a love letter to film itself, with its silent film/early talkies setting, a cast stuffed with stars, and its epic three-hour runtime.

The Setting

As Babylon kicks off in 1926, the decade is roaring with a fervor that could make Baz Luhrmann blush, with the wealthy freely indulging their proclivities at a party far from the prying eyes of the press and respectability. In their midst are soon to be up-and-coming dreamers.

The other, Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), can only aspire to be an actress. With an unabashed sexuality that embraces its every curve, gauzily tangled hair that disdains any idea of being tamed, eyes made to weep a single perfect tear on a director’s whim, and the charismatic confidence she lives to unleash at any and every raunchy Hollywood bash.

Transitional Times

Before we get to that, there’s a first half when we can see the silents in all their glory, and where most of the movie’s dark humor comes into play.

As this world gives way to the talkies, it’s difficult not to sigh wistfully with Chazelle at a kind of twisted Paradise Lost, as multiple sets with boundless energy ready to uncoil in on-screen waves of emotion give way to the precision of hitting the mark, quiet on the set, and enunciation.

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