La La Land (2016): The Love that Shines Brighter than the Dreams

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During my twenty-something years of life, I have never felt more consoled by a film than with La La Land. Anyone with a dream would have been moved by Emma Stone’s incredible performance during the final audition, but it hit me harder because I had been feeling especially lost with concerns for my future. I had just spent a couple nights going from feeling surprisingly confident about my talents and where I’m headed in my life to feeling utterly hopeless at the world that doesn’t seem to share my interests and at myself, who seemed so insignificant and powerless. La La Land was the remedy I needed right then and there. I know for sure that I’ll watch this film again and again and be differently inspired each time. So I can’t say that my appreciation for the film today is sufficient and everything that it deserves, but there are thoughts I would like to document for now.

 

I know that my judgement is probably clouded with my obsession for the idea that love fuels every human creation and is of utmost importance, but I have to say that this film, at its core, is about love. This I say to all the critics who claim that the film isn’t detailed nor fully realistic in portraying Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling)’s journey to accomplishing their dreams. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I think those critics are missing the point, being caught up with the theme of the film and failing to see what’s being emphasized underneath.

Don’t get me wrong. Pursuing a dream and realizing it are important to me. Although I wish this isn’t always the case for my own sake, I am an idealist- I encourage myself to dream, get myself to ceaselessly work for it and believe that there is justice in the world. So, yes, I would have liked to see Mia staging her one-woman show and Seb setting up his jazz club from scratch. Such scenes would be the epitome of their efforts at making their dreams come true, and I would have connected with them better, as a persistent dreamer myself. However, the scenes in the film were sufficient to make me understand that the characters struggle within and without, but their devotions to their dreams keep them going and will get them to their dreams. Even without seeing the process of accomplishment, I remained drawn-in to the story and could even unknowingly hold the belief that they will see their dreams come true. Seeing the details of the process wasn’t important for me because I’ve seen everything I needed to before; and, to me, the scenes before are about love.

I think that the theme of love assumes as much importance as, or even more importance than, the theme of dream in La La Land. The most obvious sign for me in realizing this was acknowledging that I cried when Mia and Seb argue over the dinner table, with a similar sense of compassion that I felt when I cried during Mia’s audition. Underneath the hurtful words in that scene, I could read their caring intentions. Mia worries that Seb was losing sight of his dream from the Hollywood haze but fails to be frank for fear of hurting his pride, while Seb cannot say that he got into it for Mia, after overhearing her phone call with her parents where she explains to them his career and financial situation with difficulty. Above all, both of them want the other to be around. Seb wants Mia to escape her daily hassles and experience the wealth, excitement and relaxation that he can provide for her. Mia wants Seb to support her when it gets difficult to hold on, for he is the one that inspired her to trust her talents and venture. Now that I think about it, Mia’s love for her dream seems to outweigh her love for Seb, when Seb’s love for Mia seems to be greater than his love for his dream…

Regardless, love never stops to drive them to do better. They first fall in love as they see so much of themselves in each other: neglected artists who seem almost foolish in keeping their dreams, but with pride, personality and true love for their passion. How they fall in love is so subtle that some critics point this out as something forcefully installed to carry out the story. But doesn’t all things human seem random at times, only to turn out to be the result of a mixture of previous influences? Their love is realistic, natural and absolutely endearing. Once they become a couple, they truly recognize the other’s talent and end up falling in love with “what (the other person is) passionate about”. Seb gets Mia to like jazz and Mia makes Seb fall in love with her personality (which is what I believe to be an actor/actress’s “talent”). I guess, in the sense that Mia herself is art, it is possible for Seb to have fallen in love with her even more.

Knowing the other’s talent, they push each other; and they push themselves for their lover. To have a future with Mia and to be the man that he thinks she wants, Seb signs a contract with the band that doesn’t entirely share his style of music. Mia brings him back to his senses in the argument as he starts to stray away from his dream. She wishes to do well with her one-woman performance that Seb has cheered her on to do, but it fails to have a big audience. What seems more despairing for her is that Seb doesn’t show up, making her dramatic move back home completely understandable (which some critics have pointed out as being unharmonious with Mia’s character, when it does make sense as their love was that important for her). Then Seb comes back to let Mia know of her audition and supports her in person this time, which does end up getting her on the track to realizing her dream.

After Mia’s successful audition, they intuitively know that they will have to part ways. Instead of saying goodbye, they tell each other that they’ll always love the other. Compared to the scene where they argue, the development in how they handle their love as two artists striving to become who they are destined to be is impressive. There is no room for miscommunication nor any need to say much anymore, because they sincerely understand one another. They trust in the unconditional love and support that the other has for them, and understand that the other’s utmost wish for them is to accomplish their dreams. Their success in the very end proved for me that their love, which came to their lives to ignite a spark of light, transcends time and space. Thus, I came to the conclusion that love, indeed, is a more fundamental theme in the film.

 

Now that I’m done with my long long analysis of why and how I watched La La Land with a focus on “love”, I want to move on to some other aspects of the film that I personally connected with.

I’m not always an emotional person, but the very first scene, a no-cut tracking shot of performers on a highway in LA, brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of all the Uber drivers I met in LA who were aspiring screenwriters, actors and musicians. I’ve read reviews where people criticized the randomness of that first sequence, saying that it is an unnecessarily fancy performance; but it was more than a mere performance to me. It felt so real, having seen real people carrying on their lives with a smile, hoping to actualize their Hollywood dream one day. The fanciness of it brought more sorrow, because I could only imagine the effort the performers must have put in to get the scene to look so divine within a single take. I couldn’t help but think about all those actors and actresses whose names will pass me nevertheless.

A detail I loved about the film was its use of colors. I noticed how the (mostly female) underdogs of the industry are presented in bright colored clothes. Mia is seen in dresses of all the colors of the rainbow. Even in her café uniform, she dons a bright light blue scarf and/or a red tote. Then after she becomes a successful actress, she is seen in monotones, namely black and white. Another use of color in the film that I fell in love with and want to mention is the LA sky during sunset. It’s not my intention to rebut every criticism I’ve read online about this film, but I must say something about the comments that the colors in the film are inattentive of the characters’ emotions or the flow of the story, but always pastel, purple, pretty and pointless. My opinion is that this film is an homage to the people of Hollywood who overcome adversities to bring something true in this world, but also to Hollywood itself that once amazed its audience with its visual spectaculars. All of the shots are breathtakingly beautiful and, most notably, real. I’ve heard from a reliable source that the colors of the sky and all of the backgrounds weren’t edited, and the crew had to wait for the right moment to come during sunset to capture the perfect color. A message I can draw out from this particular aspect would be that there is authenticity in the beauty that Hollywood presents, and we mustn’t override the realness of it, be it its environment or its people.

I’m attaching pictures I took of the sky last year in LA. I had fallen in love with a lot of things in that city, but nothing surpassed my adoration for its sky during sunset. It’s something I hold dear to my heart and I just had to protect it.

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La La Land is a film that means so much to me. It picked me up when I was blinded by pessimism; and brought back memories of LA, with such passionate and warm-hearted people, and just incredibly beautiful in and of itself. I’m thankful, just entirely thankful.

“I trace it all back to then, her and the snow and the Seine. Smiling through it, she said she’d do it again.”

 

Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

 

A Fleeting Thought on Film & Love

For these past few months, I’ve been imagining myself creating a film. I know nothing of it- what it would entail, where I would begin, whether I would write or film it. Taking classes have taught me how to watch a film, but I believe making one is a different story. Amongst the uncertainty, however, there is one thing I know with some clarity: that my films would be about love.

It’s so strange to me that I have this sensitivity towards love. For one thing, I have so much doubt about love in general. I think that so much has to come together harmoniously for there to be love, and it seems rarely the case that love is equal and fair. Can love be so core to humanity when it relies on chance? What if love is just a naïve idea to beautify a point of intersection between interests? In my heart, I feel there is so much importance in love, but I would face moments of rationality when questioning its being and my faith in love would waver. Another thing is that I haven’t really experienced true love in my life yet. I’ve had feelings of adoration that were deep enough to the extent that I would think I can feel physical pain from them, but they never really lasted to have any significance. It’s a little embarrassing but my left palm ached as if I genuinely cared for Jacob who failed at love in the second book of the Twilight series. So I’m yet to know what love is, but strangely, I still feel its importance.

I’m writing about love at this particular moment in my life, because I feel that my thoughts on love are evolving these days. At the end of last year, I felt loved. It had been long since I did, so my reactions to it were apparent and I could easily reflect on them. To tell the story in short, I was scared when he loved me. Then he left and I felt regret at shying away, because I couldn’t get my mind off of that warmth he made me feel with his tenderness. Friends would say that it wasn’t real love and that it was just a fling. Maybe it was just a momentary surge of emotions that got us to like each other, and this thought once made me lose hope in honest love. But then again, nothing is ever transparent when it comes to people. Now I don’t think that his thoughts and intentions matter. What matters is that I felt something from and to a person and acted in response. What matters now is how I take this experience with me in the present time.

I hate to admit, for I don’t want to think of myself as relying on others to define my own, but being loved boosted my self-esteem. It made me randomly happier and more comfortable with the way that I am both inside and outside. My philosophy on life is that all humans ultimately strive for happiness, and it looks to me now like love would bring me closer to that ultimate goal of human existence. Then I can say that the importance I place on love isn’t totally groundless.

There’s still so much I need to think about regarding love. I can’t completely trust the thoughts I have now, because my reflections are based on a fraction of what I think love is. I’ve been loved but haven’t returned that love to actually be in a lasting relationship with constant interaction, a more developed form of love, so to say. For now, I will live life with a newfound understanding of love and high anticipation for the next idea that life will enlighten me with.

 

My favorite dialogue about sincere love that has died away but remains in the hearts through its lasting influence:

– But I feel an infinite tenderness for you. I always will. My whole life.

– I’m sorry. You know me. Sometimes I cry for no reason.

From Blue is the Warmest Color (2013) by Abdellatif Kechiche, starring Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux.

Films about love, especially those that portray its reality, have the greatest impact on me. Films like Blue is the Warmest Color inspire me.

 

Everything Counts

I enjoy movies on many levels. I love admiring the different characters, the lines, the action, the camera work, the editing, the graphics, the music and everything else. My heart never stops to skip a beat even when I go to the same theater every time, blissfully sniffing the scent of caramelized popcorn, and get settled in one of the seats that my body has grown so familiar to. I enjoy the whole experience of going to the movies. But this is not something I can afford to have for myself all the time due to constraints in time and money that it requires. So I usually watch movies in my room by myself and, although it’s a little embarrassing to admit, I like to be completely immersed in the story, let myself go and cry whilst. The truth is, I always thought this was a cheap compromise I was making. It’s been 300-something days since I first started blogging about my life, but mostly about the movies that inspire me, and now that I think about it, my thoughts about this hobby has changed.

Here is the blog I had before this: https://plain.is/lumiere

(The film documentation section: https://plain.is/lumiere/h/영화)

I was listening to “The Blower’s Daughter,” an original soundtrack from the film Closer by Damien Rice when I remembered blogging about the film. So I went back to look for my blog that I have long abandoned and went through the posts I have made about different films I watched on my own. It was my first blog ever and I didn’t know what and how to document, so I began with blogging quotes I liked from the films. Then I remember feeling so emotional about a film at one point that I had to change the format of my blogging. So I started to write down my thoughts, and my blog posts became longer with time. I quit writing on that blog when I first conceived the thought that the blog cannot keep up with my desire to be more elaborate in discussing films. Then I started this one. I haven’t made too many posts on this, and I feel it has something to do with the pressure I put upon myself to write in a more polished style.

But what I have learned after going through the posts I’ve made on the precedent blog is that no matter how unorderly they may seem, they still have their values in asking the important questions about life. And this feeling of getting myself to be able to think about what really matters, the essence of life, and feeling as if I could be a better human came back to me. This was the motivation that kept me passionate about reading film, which I must have lost in the petty distractions of life. I want to tell myself that everything counts, that whatever thought I have from watching a film is worthwhile to document, so don’t hesitate to write.

 

 

The followings are my thoughts on love, a recurrent theme in many of my film analysis, from the old blog.

It all began with this:

June 2, 2015- Kill Your Darlings (2013)

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“Find where love hides, give, share, lose, lest we die unbloomed.”

https://plain.is/lumiere/136656

 

I questioned if love was even real:

August 6, 2015- Closer (2004)
The concept of becoming “closer” is an illusion and love is an impulse. Dan realizes he loves Alice and cannot help but demand the truth, only to become a stranger who never even knew her name. Anna is never satisfied with the love she has and drives herself to depression out of lust for another man. True love is irrelevant to the three. The film leaves Alice as a mystery, but I would say that, all along, she was the one who knew the truth about love.

“It’s a lie. It’s a bunch of sad strangers photographed beautifully, and… all the glittering assholes who appreciate art say it’s beautiful ’cause that’s what they wanna see. But the people in the photos are sad, and alone… But the pictures make the world seem beautiful, so… the exhibition is reassuring which makes it a lie, and everyone loves a big fat lie.”

https://plain.is/lumiere/227430, https://plain.is/lumiere/227432

 

I thought about the idea of there being no life without love:

August 14, 2015- Shame (2011)


A rather realistic depiction of a destroyed life; he feels no true human connection and sex isolates him further. His sister shares his pain, but unlike him she desires life which is evident in her self-harm and attempts at suicide. His sorrowful, emotionless face in the final scene leaves the audience questioning whether he can break free from his painful cycle.

https://plain.is/lumiere/249778

 

Love came across to me as a value to hold on to for the entirety of humanity:

September 5, 2015- Never Let Me Go (2010)


“What I’m not sure about is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.” It’s easy to think that medical science will develop to a stage where moral ethics is put into question. Films are constantly being made with such theme in mind (ex. The Island (2005)), but I could never decide how I should feel about it. With this one, however, I finally had some idea; an absolute remedy to death is not so easy to approach. The beings modeled on humans will have emotions, intelligence, relationships and life of their own like any other human. Likewise, humans will die someday, whether they are ready or not, whether they like it or not, just like them. In this sense, I think death is inevitable and the best anyone can do is love.

https://plain.is/lumiere/293168

 

It became so important for me that there is love in life:

September 5, 2015- Being John Malkovich (1999)

Is it worth living when you lose your love and passion for self-achievement, as you age with nothing left but a numb desire to live?

https://plain.is/lumiere/293262

 

 

I dedicate this post to my old blog and to my old self.

Never stop searching for meanings. Never stop writing.

– This has been words of encouragement at a sleepless night of editing resumes 🙂 내 인생 화이팅

Eden (2012): Reality or Aesthetics?

*I recommed whoever comes across this post to watch the movie first! There are spoilers! More importantly, it might not make sense!

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What is the purpose of a film?

Human trafficking is a serious problem and there is much power in films that deal with such issues. The topic itself speaks to the audience and gets them to think about crimes committed in our world that are often left unnoticed. The audience might leave the theater thinking that a film was great simply because it made them think about something different for once. But then it would mean that it wasn’t the film that stimulated their thoughts, but the topic it used convey something as a film. To be honest, I wasn’t too moved by this film, and now that I think about it, I think it was because I wasn’t sure what the intention behind this film was.

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The natural expectation with films that revolve around such sensitive issues is that they will shock the audience with a sense of reality. Almost as if to fit this expectation, Eden is based on a true story, and it seems like this was actually an aspect that the producers used to appeal to the public when it was first released. As all true stories are, there is not much drama (in comparison to some other films about human trafficking). The producers might have thought that simplicity would enhance the realness of the film, but by doing so, they sacrificed the effect of moving the audience. It is not just the lack of nudity or violence in the portrayal of events that makes the movie come across to me as blend, but it is the lack of emotion and story behind the characters that contribute to the sense of distance I felt after watching.

There is no question about Jamie Chung’s acting. She makes her character believable. She is great. But the emotions and the change of character I saw from the protagonist she plays were not detailed enough to understand. The audience are not provided enough background of her (the only look into her past is from her dialogues with her parents that do not say much thanks to awkward Korean dialogues and poor acting by the parents) to understand what she was like before the incident, her loss of innocence is depicted with a lacking sensitivity, and the decisions she makes are strangely timed (there were several moments when I thought she could have done that then if she was going to do it now). I couldn’t connect with her to experience the incident in her shoes as the film should have made me do if it were intending on giving the audience an effect that goes beyond the theater to thoughts on real life.

Apart from the main character, Eden’s friend in captivity made me tilt my head a little in the scene where she cries and wishes to stay in captivity after pregnancy. How becoming a mother would have changed her character is understandable when one really thinks and makes assumptions about it; but not only is this issue another heavy one that shouldn’t be lightly covered in one or two scenes, but the assumptions I had to make seemed to be a bit too much work for those on the side of the audience. The man who is in charge of Eden and the other captives also must have had a story to tell, as he has a background of serving the army and seems unsettled under the orders of the chief. But none of these emotions are looked into during the film. There was a chance for this though. In the scene before his death when he says to Eden, “There’s only you and me. I want you to know that,” I was excited to see some true emotion from him! But no. He dies right after. Again, this scene made me question Eden’s character, because this made her seem in total loss of compassion or any other human emotion with only a desire to escape.

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If the film was not meant to strike the audience with reality, then was its purpose aesthetics? There were certainly scenes that made this film artistic, like the close-up of Eden’s ankle when she cuts herself lose. But then I have to ask, was it suitable for a film about human trafficking to present to the audience the beauty that exists regardless of its tragedy?

Directed by Megan Griffiths. Starring Jamie Chung.

 

A film about human trafficking that leaves a stronger impact: Blind Mountain (2007)

Comet (2014): Balance, Time & Love

*I recommed whoever comes across this post to watch the movie first! There are spoilers! More importantly, it might not make sense!

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She lives in the “now”, while he lives everywhere but the “now”.

Although different in how they hold on to the concept of time, Kim (Emmy Rossum) and Dell (Justin Long) are both very aware of it. They always take things beyond to identify them in time. This influences them to think badly of time itself, namely that it makes everything finite. Kim wants love to be painted like a picture. This reveals her tendency to be less mindful of anything else, but the chances she takes and emotions she follow in the moment. Dell worries about the negative possibilities of the “five minutes from now.” But this only makes him very self-conscious and regretful of what he misses out on. This can be implied in his repeated “joke” about saying, “Where’s my fucking money?” Time is money, so here, he is essentially crying out loud for the time he lost.

Kim and Dell were in love but just seeing it differently. Dell says the most fearful result of love would be to change each other. But they both change from love. Kim starts to see beyond the “now” as she thanks Dell for their past and makes her final decision out of concern for the future (of course, with love for Jack in the present as well). In the very last scene, Dell takes one whole minute to be in the “now” before going to kiss her, regardless of his regretful past or her future without him.

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Although the overall image of this film may quite strongly be occupied with the bluish image of the scenes, the dream-like music and strangely charming dialogues, everything ties itself to one another to create one coherent (and indeed, very artistic) story about love. It is about a progress of balancing that comes to a point of stability only after its time has come to an end.

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Directed by Sam Esmail. Starring Justin Long and Emmy Rossum.

 

Also a realistic depiction of love and relationships: Blue Valentine (2010)

With a similar cinematic style: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)