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Babylon - Rausch der Ekstase Filmstill

Babylon – Rausch der Ekstase ©2023 Paramount Pictures

WHIPLASH, LA LA LAND and FIRST MAN – Damien Chazelle has arguably one of the most impressive vitas of the young generation. At just 38, he has already won three Golden Globe Awards and an Oscar®. There is also a good chance that he will not go away empty-handed at this year’s Academy Awards and will set the box office ringing with BABYLON. Originally, it was planned that Emma Stone would be seen in a leading role again after LA LA LAND, but the Covid 19 pandemic caused scheduling problems, so the final decision was made in favour of Margot Robbie, who is probably one of the most sought-after Hollywood actresses at the moment. With Brad Pitt at her side as well as exciting supporting actors like Tobey Maguire, Samara Weaving and Olivia Wilde, we get a top-class cast.




That’s the story about

It is the time of the first great films. In the 1920s, Jack Conrad is one of the great film stars of silent movies and Nellie LaRoy is considered a promising talent on the cinema industry stage. The latest works of art are celebrated with exuberant parties and sex, drugs and alcohol often determine the behaviour on the set and in the private lives of the actors. But Hollywood is in a state of flux and new challenges are waiting to be mastered in front of and behind the camera. With the introduction of sound films, completely new qualities are demanded, which cause quite a few careers to wobble. Can established stars adapt to the new technology and do up-and-coming lights manage to shine brightly or does the restructuring not only mean the beginning of a new technical era?

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Review

Chazelle’s path to success is as simple as can be: big movie stars, a perfectly nuanced score by Justin Hurwitz, imposing staging, lots of sweat and blood, and a story that literally strives for perfectionism. Basically, all this also describes his latest coup. With BABYLON he uses a simple and promising theme: a homage to film and the love of cinema. In order to realise this, he goes to a point in film history that brought with it a trend-setting turning point in time. The development of sound film has massively shaped and changed the film and cinema business over the decades and still ensures today that unforgettable masterpieces can not only be presented on the big screen, but that concert halls also play pieces that immediately make us think of our favourite film experiences. Chazelle places his plot precisely around this crucial development, giving us a fictional, yet not unrealistic, glimpse into the earlier set.

Babylon - Rausch der Ekstase Filmstill

Babylon – Rausch der Ekstase ©2023 Paramount Pictures

His escapist portrayal of early Hollywood, along with a Brad Pitt who merely peeks out from the second row and can be considered more of an accessory than a vehicle for the film, is very reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s look at movie town in ONCE UPON A TIME… IN HOLLYWOOD. Interestingly, Tobey Maguire is no more worthy of mention than Pitt, yet links this work to another great US film that shines through Chazelle’s production time and again: escapades and exuberance from THE GREAT GATSBY make massive inroads, especially in the film’s nearly 30-minute intro, offering us a grotesque opening the likes of which we haven’t seen in a long time. The meaningfulness of this can be safely questioned, because not only does the half-hour ordeal not offer us an adequate introduction to a story or the characters, it is also positively brimming with lazy explanatory gaps that are merely meant to offer a brilliant cinematic experience.

Firework of passion

If you failed the bouncer at the KitKat Club in Berlin, Chazelle now gives you free entry. But once you have survived this tragic debut, the director turns his approach to the film around 180 degrees and increasingly distances himself from unpleasant obscenities. Instead, he embarks on a fantastic stringing together of individual plot episodes that are meant to be story developments as a whole, but can basically be seen as individual elements. Each one offers outstanding staging that will give film lovers in particular goose bumps. Not innocent of this is Margot Robbie in particular, who once again proves that she gets better and better with each film. Throughout the entire work, it is unclear whether we are seeing phenomenal acting from her or merely her own personality perfectly integrated into the plot. Presumably, however, the camera has simply been left to run and Robbie has simply created her own perfect work of art.

Babylon - Rausch der Ekstase Filmstill

Babylon – Rausch der Ekstase ©2023 Paramount Pictures

There’s No Business Like Show Business! – With this motto, Chazelle tries to put the audience into the very frenzy that is already announced in the subtitle. Instead of developing an affectionate and devoted ode to cinema, however, BABYLON remains on a distant and pragmatic level and merely feeds the easily satisfied and superficial audience with a homage suitable for the masses that drowns out the real and subtle messages of love. Instead of a huge party on the screen, it wouldn’t have hurt the work to radiate a little more passion in places and thus take its cue from films like LAST FILM SHOW. To make up for the extra time needed, it would not have been tragic to cut Tobey Maguire, who is merely a gimmick, completely with his action part, thus shortening the much too long film a bit as well.

Babylon - Rausch der Ekstase Filmstill

Babylon – Rausch der Ekstase ©2023 Paramount Pictures

Technical escapades

Now, it should be mentioned that in our screening, the 3D model shifted in front of the projector due to a technical glitch. This resulted in a distortion of the colours that stayed with us for 40 minutes and raised the question of whether this was a stylistic device. It is fascinating to observe how well this problem would actually have fitted into the film at times without being questioned. After all, Chazelle plays with camera and image settings again and again, uses changeable colour grading, builds in small one-shot sequences and repeatedly focuses on diffuse work with a wide variety of light sources. He also proceeds accordingly in the score and sound design and, at the hands of Justin Hurwitz, provides us with a primarily jazz-influenced ebb and flow of moods that bounces back and forth, Pong-style, between the extremes of shrill and intrusive music and a complete muting of sound.

stilisierter Zelluloidfilm mit roter Ziffer "7"Conclusion

What remains is an opulent flick that offers the layman an exciting glimpse behind the scenes of a film set and deals in many small scenes with the various stations such as set design, camera, sound and image development. At least superficially, the homage is played out properly. At the same time, we are shown a fireworks display of partying, drugs and other extremes, which even Baz Luhrmann can fear for his throne at times. Much more memorable, however, is the incredible acting by Margot Robbie, who has set herself a monument with this production. So, as great as some of the criticisms seem to be, it must also be acknowledged that BABYLON has many directorial merits that once again show that Damien Chazelle still has a great career ahead of him in the business.

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