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A Few Words About While we wait for A few words about...™ Babylon - in 4k UHD & Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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I has the pleasure on Monday night of seeing Damien Chazelle’s Babylon on a great screen in 4k mit Dolby Atmos - one of the best Atmos mixes I’ve heard.

It was concurrently one of my most exhilarating and depressing experiences, especially as a film archivist, in recent history.

My recommendation is to find a theater running it in a like manner and get to that venue.

It’s a huge film that opens Friday, December 23rd, and every cent of the budget is on screen.
 

Kyle_D

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I fear Avatar 2 is going to take up nearly all the giant Atmos screens for the duration of Babylon's theatrical run...

A few cities are receiving 70mm prints of Babylon, but unfortunately no such engagements have been announced near me in Chicago :(
 

Alan Tully

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The trailer looks exhausting, so much happening at full pelt (but certainly a feast for the eyes). I'm hoping the film has a few quiet moments.
 

Robert Harris

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The trailer looks exhausting, so much happening at full pelt (but certainly a feast for the eyes). I'm hoping the film has a few quiet moments.
It does, but there’s still a lot going on.
 

lark144

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It was concurrently one of my most exhilarating and depressing experiences, especially as a film archivist, in recent history.
Mr. Harris, is it possible to explain about the depressing aspect of it, without giving anything away?
 

Charles Smith

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Stunning. Eye and ear filling. Damien Chazelle uses every square inch of the screen and every cubic inch of the theater...for all three hours and eight minutes. Yes, there are relatively "quieter" moments, but still with a world full of information and sensation to take in.

I should probably admit that this is my first time seeing anything of his. I haven't even seen La La Land yet, if you can believe it. Well, "these things happen". I'll catch up with that one, not to worry.

I was eating it up all the way, and I think it's still "settling" for me. I can well imagine it not being a lot of people's cup of tea. I happen to drink strong tea, and I like my movies long, so I look forward to being back when it opens. I don't often say this these days, but I also look forward to whatever thoughtful reviews there may be. And I hope it does well.
 

johnmcmasters

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Pauline Kael once reviewed Bertolucci's "The Conformist" and included some observations about how modern directors view the perceived allure of the glitz, glamour, and decadence of past eras. I've been loathe to watch "Babylon" because I detect some of the traits that she speaks about as possibly appearing in Mr. Chazelle's work. These are excerpts from Ms. Kael's review -- when she uses "he" she means Bertolucci of course!
_________________
Pauline Kael excerpt from her review of "The Conformist": "One of the peculiarities of movies as a mass medium is that what the directors luxuriate in—and what we love to look at—has so often been held up as an example of vice. Except for the sophisticated comedies of the past and occasional thrillers about classy crooks, we get most of our views of elegance under the guise of condemnation. Our desire for grace and seductive opulence is innocent, I think, except to prigs, so when it’s satisfied by movies about Fascism or decadence we get uncomfortable, because our own enjoyment is turned against us. One wants modern directors to be able to use the extravagant emotional possibilities of the screen without falling into the De Mille—Fellini moralistic bag.

The words that come to mind in connection with his work—sweeping, operatic, and so on—describe the talents of the kind of moviemaker who has the potential for widening out the appeal of movies once again. But movies—the great sensual medium—are still stuck with the idea that sensuality is decadent."
_________________

Does the film suffer from this "moralistic bag" despite being, I assume, nuanced?
 
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Thomas T

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Does the film suffer from this "moralistic bag" despite being, I assume, nuanced?
I hardly think one could call Babylon "moralistic". I'd say it had more in common with La Dolce Vita than The Conformist. But then again, I recall Kael unfavorably referring to La Dolce Vita as a "come dressed as the sick soul of Europe party" and Babylon might aptly be desried as "come dressed as the sick soul of Hollywood party".
 

johnmcmasters

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Thanks! Everything I know about the film strikes me as duplicitously sentimental -- showing tons of depravity and disgusting acts but in the end trying to have one's cake and eat it too as a heartfelt celebration of the "never never land" of Hollywood. But then vomiting. If the director was interested in the "dance of irreconcilable opposites" I might be more sympathetic, but he just seems to want to indulge and purge.

Well, no.

I disliked "Whiplash" and really hated "La La Land" so I imagine I'll pass on this. Not that that matters to anyone!
 

SD_Brian

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I personally loved Babylon, but I will concede that almost every criticism I've read of it has been perfectly valid: it is too long, too vulgar, too self-indulgent, and way over-the-top (those are also the things I liked best about it, other than the "too long" part: it could easily have been trimmed by 30 minutes).

As a point of comparison, imagine The Wolf of Wall Street, only set in Hollywood, 1928.

Favorite moment: Brad Pitt asks, "Do people even want sound in their movies?"
 

Kyle_D

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Thanks! Everything I know about the film strikes me as duplicitously sentimental -- showing tons of depravity and disgusting acts but in the end trying to have one's cake and eat it too as a heartfelt celebration of the "never never land" of Hollywood. But then vomiting. If the director was interested in the "dance of irreconcilable opposites" I might be more sympathetic, but he just seems to want to indulge and purge.
You're not far off, although I wouldn't say anything in Babylon approaches sentimentality or heartfelt celebration. Not even the ending. The film's perspective is very much in the vein of Whiplash's ending: it's simultaneously awestruck and disgusted. Hollywood is always transcendently magical and irredeemably turgid at the same time.

Chazelle is always asking: is the juice worth the squeeze?
  • In Whiplash: is musical greatness worth the abusive practice and instruction regimen? Is it worth sacrificing your soul to achieve greatness?
  • In La La Land: is it worth sacrificing your relationship to achieve your dream?
  • In Babylon: is achieving cinematic immortality worth inevitably drowning in the cesspool of Hollywood? Are the movies themselves worth it?
The question is less effective in Babylon because its entire depiction of Hollywood is so over-the-top that the question is never fairly presented. It stacks the deck and--unlike Whiplash and La La Land--it never even shows the glimmer of alternative outcomes for its characters, so the audience never even sees what the characters could have had but for their doomed pursuits. Consequently, there's no sense of sacrifice or loss. The film is too eager to rub the audience's face in sh*t (I mean that almost literally) and then cynically pronounce with a heap of self-loathing, "That's Entertainment!"

I like the film. There are some exhilarating sequences. I mentioned in the other thread, though, that it really suffers by comparison to its influences. The screenplay is a nearly beat-for-beat, scene-for-scene retread of Boogie Nights, but unlike PTA, Chazelle has no real compassion for any of his characters, and so it's hard to invest in anything that happens to them in the third act. And all the Felini-esque and Lynch-ian flourishes just made me wish I was watching the real deal.
 

titch

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I attended the Norwegian premiere this evening and really enjoyed it - probably enjoyed it even more than I should have, due to the fact that it completely tanked in the States. The film, inevitably, ran out of steam from Toby Maguire onwards, but it gave a lot of bang for the buck up until then, watching it on a 40 foot screen. It's been a long time since I saw anything so delightfully vulgar.

In the olden days, I used to show the Ride Of The Valkyries segment from Apocalypse Now, or the beginning of The Right Stuff, or the trailer from The Abyss, if I wanted my friends' jaws to drop, when showing them what a LaserDisc and surround sound could do. I will be running the bacchanalian pre-title sequence as demo material when I get my mitts on the 4K UHD. The production work on Babylon are the very best money can buy - the propulsive music soundtrack was incredible; like the end of Zatoichi, but pumping all the way through. This is going to be a reference-quality 4K UHD.

IMG_1551.jpeg
 

SD_Brian

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The film, inevitably, ran out of steam from Toby Maguire onwards
Agreed. When I said the movie could easily have been trimmed by 30 minutes, the entire Toby Maguire sequence would be my first nomination to hit the cutting room floor. It's not that it's a bad sequence, but it's completely unnecessary and stops the movie cold.
 

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