Babylon (2022)

Babylon (2022)

An intoxicating and lavishly designed experience of Hollywood hedonism

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

United States of America
Cantonese, English, Spanish
Comedy, Drama
2022
DAMIEN CHAZELLE
Aaron Oltman, Albert Hammond Jr., Alex Reznik
189 min

TLDR

The first-ever movie to be shot on 35mm strips of cocaine.

What it's about

A young man working odd jobs in 1920s Hollywood falls into a world of unregulated excess, while also climbing the ladder of success.

The take

Between its maximalist production design and increasingly dark comedic set pieces, the most striking thing about Damien Chazelle's critically misunderstood industry satire is how it strikes a tone closer to tabloid gossip than anything else. As opposed to the clockwork precision of Chazelle's Whiplash, or the dreaminess of La La Land, Babylon's restlessness doesn't resemble Hollywood spectacle so much as it begins to feel like an unscratchable itch, desperate to feel anything. The film ends up trying to say so much that it threatens to say nothing at all, but its vision of cinema becoming reality is so potent that just the experience is more than worth getting lost in.

What stands out

It seems to be getting rarer and rarer for original musical scores to sound like bona fide classics, but Justin Hurwitz's music for Babylon is a work of mad, massive genius. Shifting from tragically romantic to boisterously high on its own supply, the score becomes the literal heart of the movie, violently pumping blood through every orifice and keeping all of its flailing parts tethered together. And as Hurwitz makes constant musical callbacks to his work in La La Land, he creates a fascinating diptych of Hollywood as a land of both dreams and nightmares, with only a hazy distinction between the two.

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