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La La Land: Reimagining musicals from cinema’s Golden age

La La Land, a new movie starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, aims to channel the magic and energy of French and American musicals of the Golden Age into our more complicated and jaded era.

La La Land is the story of two struggling artists and dreamers.

Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, is trying to get people to care about jazz in the 21st century – while Mia, Emma Stone, is struggling to make it as an actress.

But everything changes when they meet each other.

‘La La Land’ was directed and written by Damien Chazelle, who’s previous films with a musical flavour, which he wrote and directed, include Whiplash and Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench.

With La La Land Chazelle wanted to see if he could make a film that channels the magic and energy of French and American musicals of the Golden Age – into our more complicated and jaded age.

He says the cast “was infected with this idea that you could re-imagine those great old movies.”

And that part of the appeal of having Gosling and Stone together on screen is because “you can imagine them together” much like “Fred and Ginger or Bogart and Bacall, a classic Hollywood screen couple.”

It’s not the first time Gosling and Stone have starred together.

In 2011 there was romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love – then two years later they were reunited in Gangstar Squad.

The music for La La Land was composed by Justin Hurwitz – with the Theme Song, the first piece he wrote.

He says he wanted music that could “unfold on a larger scale and throughout the entire movie” – and which producer Fred Berger says is the “rock and the core of the film musically.”

Gosling says that he practiced “some of the piano pieces four hours a day for three months” and that he should “never want to hear them again” BUT “that he’s still moved by them.”

Another discipline that involved a lot of training was dancing, with Gosling and Stone learning tap, jazz and ballroom – rehearsals taking place everyday for two or three months.

Composer, Hurwitz says that orchestration is his favourite part of the process – a view backed up by Chazelle who says that the two men “had always imagined that this would be a 90 piece orchestra – recorded the old fashioned way, together in one room…”

A sound that producer Mark Platt describes as “drawing upon history but that has it’s own language”

In fact the music was scored on the same stage where they scored Singing in the Rain and other MGM musicals.

“One of my biggest dreams, when we were starting out” says Chazelle, “was to make a movie that people who think they don’t like musicals would like.”

Early indications suggest he’s on target.

La La Land has already been named the year’s best film by the New York Film Critics Circle, an award that usually signifies a serious Oscar contender.

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