An Eternity with Angels


Director: Damien Chazelle

Cast: Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Jean Smart, Diego Calva, Jovan Adepo, Lukas Haas, Tobey Maguire, Samara Weaving, Katherine Waterston, Eric Roberts, Max Minghella, Li Jun Li

Running Time: 3 hours and 9 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Warning: This film is extremely explicit featuring graphic violence, nudity, drug use and scenes that will upset sensitive viewers.

Set between 1926 and 1932, as Hollywood was transitioning between the silent film era into talkies or films with sound, Whiplash and La La Land director Damien Chazelle makes his boldest, bravest film yet: Babylon.

Margot Robbie plays Nellie LaRoy in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

The lavish Babylon is a Feliniesque epic set in Hollywood in the early days during this fascinating transition whereby Chazelle chooses to shock his audience with the absolutely debauched and decadent party scene in the opening sequence, introducing his three main characters, silent screen stars Jack Conrad, Nellie LaRoy and producer Manny Torres played respectively by Oscar winner Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya, Bombshell) and the impressive newcomer Mexican actor Diego Calva amidst a drunken orgy featuring elephants, dead starlets and absolute chaos.

The eye-catching opening of Babylon is followed by some amazing set pieces of directors and actors trying to make silent films including an expansive medieval battle sequence which goes horribly wrong. Massive crowd sequences are cleverly orchestrated to the brilliant jazzy musical score of Oscar winner and frequent collaborator Justin Hurwitz (La La Land) who should win again for his inventive score.

Behind the lavish parties and the crazy antics involving rattlesnakes in the desert is Damien Chazelle’s love and hate relationship with Hollywood in which he does not hold back in showing the extremely dark and violent underbelly of the City of Angels in a very bizarre scene featuring Tobey Maguire involving a dungeon, an alligator and some SM dwarves.

Brad Pitt plays Jack Conrad and Diego Calva plays Manny Torres in Babylon from Paramount Pictures.

Despite all the debauchery, there are some superb scenes particularly between the frenetic, tough as nails Nellie LaRoy and the passionate Manny Torres and between the suave Jack Conrad and Hollywood gossip columnist Elinor St John played by Jean Smart.

There are repeated scenes of the main characters buying movie tickets and going into a packed cinema which is an allegory of how scriptwriter and director Chazelle feels about the next seismic shift in film entertainment, streaming which is threatening the viability of cinemas as a palace of enjoyment, as a collective experience of an audience watching their favourite stars onscreen.

Damien Chazelle wants the cinema ritual to continue even though he repels and delights his audience simultaneously in this shocking and brave allegorical epic about the changes in the entertainment industry brought about recently by streaming services.

Set almost 100 years ago, Babylon is a cinephile’s film, a tribute to cinema goers and film enthusiasts but unlike Steven Spielberg’s glossy The Fabelmans, Babylon is a Ken Russell inspired orgy of a film featuring brilliant performances by Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt and Diego Calva. There are lots of cinematic gems in this film, which you can look for in between the chaos, the predators and the debauchery.

The production and costume design is stunning and Babylon despite its length should get acknowledged for this effort.

This epic 1920’s film is a sensuous simulacrum of Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Fellini’s Satyricon (1969) and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Love it or loathe it, Babylon is an exceptionally daring homage to cinema and gets a film rating of 8 out of 10. See it for the visual spectacle.

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