Babylon (Drama, History) (2022)
Director: Damien Chazelle
Writer: Damien Chazelle
Stars: Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Brad Pitt, Li Jun Li
In an age of decadent pleasure where immorality ruled, silent movie stars have to adjust to the evolution of cinema as their wild lifestyles become obsolete.
Known largely for "Whiplash" and "La La Land", Damien Chazelle creates an outrageously indelicate and unapologetic showcase of the movie industry back in the late 1920s as cinema transitioned in the early 1930s. Development began in 2019, with Lionsgate Films planning to acquire the piece, which fell through. Originally Emma Stone was also set to fill the role eventually re-cast to Margot Robbie due to scheduling conflicts. "Babylon" has been produced by Paramount Pictures, C2 Motion Picture Group, Marc Platt Productions, Wild Chickens Productions and Organism Pictures and was also distributed by Paramount Pictures.
During The Golden Age of Hollywood, Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) makes her rise in the film industry as an actress sneaking into high-profile parties and manifesting her dreams. She meets Manny Torres (Diego Calva), who aspires to leave his immigrant past behind and make it big in Hollywood. Both realising their ambitions, the silent film era slowly fades as posh banquets replace cocaine-fuelled parties. They, alongside famous actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), fail to stay relevant—struggling to adjust to these vastly different terms of behaviour and film production.
The brightest stars burn fast as we follow those in the industry that aims to entertain. It's a different time, one of decadent lives which proves to become the demise of silent-movie actors—going from breaking into the business almost too literally to becoming the ash on the next starlets' boots. Greed, Self-Adoration and the purest passion shine in stories of the American dream and fading glory.
An extensive length, myriad of renowned actors and an almost obscene amount of nudity, drug-use, alcohol consumption, and such create this Chazelle production. Having heard of "La La Land" and not sure to have seen "Whiplash", the writer and director aren't too familiar to me with "Babylon" I got to know Chazelle quickly, maybe too quickly. Still relatively young in his career, he sets a frenetic pace, as if it's a film of a much shorter running time. Every character and angle flies by like a storm, the sound of rain and wind interchanged with brass instrumentals.
As fast as the butter is churned, there's a fair sense of narrative, which takes time to become solid, but certainly, when we hit the 30s, character development becomes set, sadly structured in a regrettable form. Chazelle almost shocks you; if it were a genre in music, it'd be bebop or shock rock. The heavily intensified comedy elements hit like a bomb, providing tones from maniacal insanity to a lightening wash.
Moments such as the long take on the initial movie set certainly served as a positive, and the soundtrack is agreeably marvellous, but sections during the 30s with only perhaps the exclusion of Tobey Maguire's James McKay show the most promise. Often I catch myself referring to films as rollercoasters, and "Babylon" might be the fastest, but only due to the steep drops. It never lingers in pity or relishes the silence, and for that, it's just not entirely performing as you'd expect it would.
Extremely fertile but prone to flooding.