This film challenges the conventional wisdom that the Hollywood romantic musical is dead or moribund. Deservedly the film has won awards at the recent Golden Globes, as has writer and director Damien Chazelle; the two stars Ryan Gosling (Seb) and Emma Stone (Mia); and the composer Justin Hurwitz. But praise is also due to the cinematographer Linus Sandgren; editor Tom Cross; and production designer David Wasco. I should add a special mention for choreographer Mandy Moore as the two stars are not experienced dancers, nor are they as skilled as Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron, who receive a homage in the film. But the songs, dances and presentation are all completely engaging.
Apart from the homages to the great 1950s Hollywood musical the film also has parallels with Jacques Demy’s Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) and Martin Scorsese’s own foray into the genre, New York New York (1977); the latter was presumably an influence on the title. And as with Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash (2014) we can also enjoy references to the world of jazz.
The film is a bitter-sweet affair. Whilst the ‘Lighthouse Café’ [seen in the film] can still be enjoyed the ‘Rialto Cinema’ [another actual setting] is sadly closed. However, this film is so good I think we can expect to enjoy a further musical.