As I settled into the theater seat, little did I know that Babylon would take me on a mesmerizing journey to the dawn of cinema and the soul of Hollywood. The initial skepticism from mixed reviews nearly deterred me, but I’ve learned to trust my own feelings when it comes to films. And what a revelation it turned out to be.
This is not a movie I liked for the usual reasons of personal empathy with the characters or a close connection to the story. The characters and their lives bear no resemblance to my own, and yet, Babylon captured my heart objectively for what it is. It refused to play on clichéd emotions, instead, it invoked new feelings and contemplations.
Damien Chazelle dives deep into the underbelly of early Hollywood, unearthing the chaotic showbiz lifestyle behind the glitz and glamour. The film fearlessly exposes the dark side, from morally defiant sets to dangerous escapades. It’s true; Babylon might be uncomfortable for some due to its raw portrayal, which leads to an unexpected conclusion. But it is not merely a smear on Hollywood’s past; rather, it is a heartfelt exposition from a true admirer of the art.
Babylon tells about the dawn of cinema – the 20s, 30s in Hollywood last century. Since the film exploited the dark side of early Hollywood, from the chaotic showbiz lifestyle behind the scenes to the chaotic, dangerous, morally defiant set, it probably caused a feeling of ‘uncomfortable’ for countless people, leading to an unexpected ending for director Damien Chazelle. However, is the film just full of negative energy, just showing the filth of Hollywood, only smearing but not glorifying cinema as some might argue? I don’t think so. Babylon exposes that dark world, but with the mind of a lover. Manny didn’t love Nellie LaRoy for virtue? He knows that a crazy girl like her is not good for him, but still loves him, maybe because she is beautiful, she is crazy, and she burns out in front of the camera. Babylon should not be accused too much into the dark, because it should be remembered that, in the first half of the 20th century, this world did not have basic principles of human rights, people’s lives were much cheaper then today, film industry accidents probably only partly reflect the dark world out there (even in this era, there are still movie accidents, causing people to lose their lives). After all, people may be mediocre, shallow, stupid, greedy, and crazy, but the art they co-create on screen with pure love is still immeasurable. And if there were no crazy people to defy like that, perhaps cinema would have less sublimation moments to become immortal. Because art is about pushing boundaries. Certainly, Damien Chazelle made this movie with all the love and enthusiasm.
The love story between Manny and Nellie LaRoy is both passionate and complex. Manny’s affection for the wild and beautiful Nellie goes beyond conventional virtues. Despite knowing that she might not be the best match for him, he adores her for her fiery spirit and the way she lights up the screen. Babylon should not be accused of focusing solely on the dark aspects, for it reminds us that early 20th-century society lacked basic human rights, making lives expendable. In this era, movie accidents and tragedies were not uncommon, even if people were mediocre, shallow, greedy, or crazy. However, through their art, they left an indelible legacy, a testament to their pure love for cinema.
The movie boasts numerous unforgettable and spectacular scenes that left me in awe. Nellie’s struggles while shooting her first film, Chinese-born actress Fay Zhu’s triumphant battle with a snake, or Jack Conrad’s encounter with journalist Elinor, each scene contributed to the cinematic tapestry of Babylon. It is a testament to the film’s exceptional casting and direction.
Babylon undoubtedly showcases Damien Chazelle’s prowess as a director. The film uplifts, engages, and enthralls the audience throughout its runtime. It is a captivating and unforgettable masterpiece that leaves me proud for Chazelle and his crew.
The journey to the heart of Babylon felt like an immersive experience, transporting me back to the captivating era of the 20s and 30s in Hollywood. The raw emotions, captivating scenes, and exploration of the art of cinema left me in awe. It’s rare to come across a film that defies conventional storytelling yet leaves a profound impact on the soul. As the credits rolled, I found myself reflecting on the beauty and complexity of the film.