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The Mavericks of Hollywood: Damien Chazelle

What do you call it when you've made only two studio films—and both get nominated for best picture? Living the dream.

BY julia black | Feb 16, 2017 | Fashion

Photo by Aaron Feaver

I've always been interested in that basic binary of dreams versus reality: How do you hold on to the dream when reality's telling you not to?" That's what Damien Chazelle tells us about his musical La La Land, but it's as good a line as any to define the director's burgeoning career thus far.

To have 2014's Whiplash ready in time for Sundance, Chazelle helped teach Miles Teller, who starred as a jazz prodigy, how to play the drums in a matter of days before a manic nineteen-day shoot. (The film went on to become a Best Picture nominee.) La La Land was initially met with resistance from studios—a throwback to the Technicolor musicals of the fifties and sixties?—which insisted on total compromise, from the opening number to the melancholy ending. But Chazelle dug in his heels and kept developing his project for four years, until Summit Entertainment came around to his vision (and sweetened the deal with a $30 million budget).

La La Land is deeply imbued with Chazelle's passion for jazz. The actors resemble improvisers in an ensemble, their energies bouncing off one another's, and scene after scene is propelled by the brisk rhythm of a hi-hat. La La Land is a love letter to art, Los Angeles, and love itself, yet anyone who interprets it as a shot of pure optimism is underestimating its auteur. Like Whiplash, it reveals something dark about the tension between love and practicality, art and ambition. "In a way, it was a vehicle for me to talk about my own experiences of trying to make stuff in L.A. and feeling isolated—and all those things sort of wound up on the page."

Damien Chazelle outfit: suit by Dries Van Noten; shirt by COS.

From: Esquire US.