Sunday, December 18, 2016

La La Land - Movie Where The Camera Is One of the Actors

We're in LA and the reviews I scanned sounded like La La Land was worth seeing.

From the long opening long take* of people stuck in freeway traffic getting out of their vehicles to sing and dance with downtown in the background, to the very end, the camera (cinematographer Linus Sandgren) was a key player in the film.  Generally, the camera should do its magic without the viewer noticing it.  But in this case it becomes one of the dancers, so to speak, twisting between the cars, moving in and out, circling around.  And it participates vigorously throughout the movie.

This is a fun movie with lots to like.

Having grown up in LA, there are iconic locations - like the Griffith Park Observatory - which played a big role in my first 20 years.  And then there's the emphasis on jazz.

But I don't remember La La Land as name for LA as a kid, and it's not a name for LA I ever used.   I suspect it would only be used as the title of this movie by someone who moved to Los Angeles from elsewhere, which is the case of film maker Damien Chazelle.

And just to double check my memory I looked up the origins of the term.  It seems to have come into use after I left LA.

The Word Detective writes, in part,
“La-La Land,” by which is generally meant Los Angeles (although occasionally all of California), certainly has the ring of Royko, but it’s not one of his inventions.  The earliest appearance of the term (in reference to Los Angeles) so far found comes from 1979.  Interestingly, at about the same time, “la-la land” came into use as a slang phrase meaning “a state of dreamy disconnection from reality,” whether due to drunkenness or dementia.

The LA Times pondered the origins of La La Land in 1987, and decided it was probably the invention of a San Francisco snob.

*a  long take is when the camera rolls continuously through the scene.  There are no cuts from one shot to another.  IndieWire has a list (with videos) of a number of long shots from different movies.  But if this term is new for you, watch carefully.  Many, if not most, of the examples have some cuts at the beginning and the end.  In the long shot, the eye of the camera follows the action (or inaction) without a break.

Here's a little more than a trailer to whet your appetite.

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