Babylon Image


By Alex Saveliev | December 16, 2022

Decadence, depravity, excess. They’re all depicted in full glory throughout Babylon – but there’s also an innocence that’s sorely lacking today. Filmmaking didn’t just imply glory, status, or fame – it was magical. That immersion into other worlds and eras drew folks in more forcefully than any drug. And, akin to withdrawal, once the industry deemed you worthless, you withered away, unable to ever again reach that high. Chazelle even mourns the revolutionary transition from silent film to sound because it happened just as silent films reached their artistic peak.

Sure, some may argue that the disturbing inner machinations of Hollywood have been depicted before, as has the tragic trajectory of a movie star. But this is less about the “what” than it is about the “how.” From Linus Sandgren’s superb camerawork to the uniformly stellar performances from the spectacular ensemble cast, the entire thing just clicks. Robbie is a force of nature, giving it her all – whatever gender you may be, I dare you not to fall in love with her vivacious Nellie. She commands the screen in a performance of kaleidoscopic emotional range and is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination. Pitt is at his most charming and confident until he’s not – the range he displays may just catch you off-guard. It would take three more pages to rave about how brilliant Smart, Haas, and Jovan Adepo (heartbreaking as an exploited trumpeter) are. As such, take my word for it — there isn’t a dud in the bunch.

“…pure movie magic.”

Chazelle has named Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Robert Altman’s Nashville as two of his top influences, among many others, but the one that immediately comes to mind is Boogie Nights. The Tobey Maguire/S&M dungeon sequence shamelessly emulates the classic Alfred Molina/firecrackers scene. But so what? Who said Tarantino is the only one allowed to steal from other films? Babylon arguably one-ups QT’s somewhat-similar Once Upon a Time in Hollywood… with more emphasis on character investment and a clear emotional arc, whereas Tarantino’s epic meandered quite a bit.

In this day and age of political agendas and ideologies forcing themselves into seemingly every narrative, it’s refreshing to see a spectacle that has no discernible agenda but to entertain. Sure, issues of race, corruption, and sexism are shown as aspects of the Dream Factory’s foundation, but there’s no finger-wagging – just history: that’s the way it was and still is to a degree. With Babylon, Chazelle laments and condemns; he documents and romanticizes. There’s truth beneath the embellishments. The filmmaker gives this project his all. Luckily, it all works. Bravo.

Babylon (2022)

Directed and Written: Damien Chazelle

Starring: Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Tobey Maguire, Jean Smart, Spike Jonze, Lukas Haas, Samara Weaving, Olivia Wilde, Jovan Adepo, Eric Roberts, Jeff Garlin, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

Babylon Image

"…imagine Baz Luhrmann, Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg joining forces"

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  1. […] Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, or you could go the Damien Chazelle route and make it more like Babylon. For what it’s worth, watching R provides a hint of what that would be […]

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