Tag Archives: La La Land

Climax

9 Mar

‘Climax’: Oh, Noé, the drinks have been dosed and the dancers are all too disturbingly into it

 

Image result for Climax movie

No, “Climax” has nothing to do with the New England Patriots owner and a brothel in Florida. It’s just the latest from take-him-or-leave-him French provocateur Gaspar Noé, of such haunting and stylish depictions of depravity as “Irréversible” (2002) and “Enter the Void” (2009). The former revolved around a brutal rape in a dingy Parisian underpass, while the latter unfurled a techno-charged odyssey about a soul seeking rebirth after drug deal gone wrong in the bowels of Tokyo. Here, Noé gives us a dance party that goes wildly off the rails and beyond.

“Climax” is disorienting on many levels. It begins with a blank white screen, and you half expect credits to roll before a woman in a sleeveless leotard staggers into view. It’s a top-down shot, and you realize she’s trudging through snow – and surely must be freezing. The camera zooms in and we hear wails of pain and see faint traces of blood smeared across her arms. Is it hers, you wonder, as she falls into the whiteness, writhing and contorting, creating the imprint of a bloody snow angel. Then the credits do roll. What’s this? Did someone queue the film up wrong?

It’s the only outdoor scene in the film, and an apt encapsulation of Noé‘s envelope-pushing style and its ability to pique, unsettle, enrapture and linger. After the credits, the film cuts to an old boob tube playing VHS audition tapes of dancers with names such as Cyborg, Psyche and Gazelle who tell the camera why they love to dance and want to be part of a troupe heading out on tour. Packed tightly around the television are DVD binders of “Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom,” “Suspiria,” “Taxi Driver” and similarly macabre flicks. It’s a pretty good indication of where this is all going – kind of. Continue reading

La La Land

1 Dec
Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) fall in love after bumping into one another in traffic

The last time I was bowled over by a musical was back in 2002 when Chicago cleaned up at the Academy Awards. Going from there to the leg shaking mastery of Fred Astaire, there’s not a lot in between. But now, from Damien Chazelle, the directorial wunderkind who made banging a drum such a vicious game of egos in Whiplash (2014), the increasingly rare genre gets a slick revisionist redress that takes bold chances and wins on most counts.

Not much can prepare you for what goes on in La La Land. The film begins with a somber traffic jam as the camera slowly pulls through the gully between inert cars. The feeling of gridlock dread is overpowering, much akin to Jean-Luc Godard’s new wave classic, Weekend (1967), but then, as it settles in through the car window of one calm young woman in a sheer yellow dress, she begins to sing a wistful song in a soft, low key. Two minutes later the highway is abuzz in dance and a choral number (a kick up your heels tune called “Another Day in the Sun”) in a long shot that’s more audacious than the opening of Robert Altman’s The Player (1992). It’s hard to believe but true. There are so many performers and stunts going on — the parkour guy gliding smoothly across the hoods of cars with a half-pike twist over the jersey barrier as he flies in and out of frame so seamlessly, you wonder how exhausted he was at the end of the shoot and how it’s humanly possible to maintain such a wide ‘oh happy day’ smile on his beaming face — that the degree of difficulty during the song is off the charts. The retake quotient must have been high, and the result is so astonishing, it seems impossible to top. Continue reading