Along with Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Jean Smart, Li Jun Li, and Jovan Adepo are the stars of this movie that looks at Hollywood’s transition from silents to talkies. The film is filled with depravity but also shows how moralism was edged out in the early days of cinema.
When the trailer for Babylon came out, several aspects of the film such as the non-stop partying, coke-fueled bacchanal of sex, movie making, and sleaze sold as The Wolf of Wall Street meets The Day of the Locust. The trailer oozes extremities, which some folks find to be “cool”, whereas, to some, the trailer itself may seem a little too exhausting and sour. Let’s quickly get into the review of the 2022 film.
It is quite difficult to find films that are romantic and repulsive at the same time, and Babylon does justice to it. Damien Chazelle’s film features at least four bodily fluids and puts up grotesque sex scenes like pieces of hot cake. The movie is a deep-seated, mesmerizingly act of balance that does not stop tipping throughout the three-hour-long runtime.
The sepia-toned vintage logo of Paramount to the delayed appearance of the movie’s title add up to a syncopated concentration of hedonistic revelry. In Babylon, Chazelle decided to mash up parts of historical lore and real-life inspirations with vivid detail that filled Kenneth Anger’s once-banned compendium, Hollywood Babylon. And to be honest, Chazelle did a pretty good job with it.
The background score for Babylon is done by academy award-winning composer Justin Hurwitz and the overall soundscape is overwhelming and sometimes it hits you like an electric wave. The score is indeed impressive without a doubt. Nowadays we do not get to experience hundreds of non-digital extras in anything, let alone on-screen movies. Even though the score of Babylon is brilliant, Chazelle somehow managed to make it seem like one big, painfully noisy, sort of distorted nostalgia cartoon. Babylon is full of elaborately conceived and choreographed sequences which makes it difficult for the audience to find a single character and focus on it.
However, there is one exception in this regard, and that is Manny Torres (played by Diego Calva). The Mexican immigrant has dark and expressive eyes through which we can see and observe the developing film industry and the people climbing the power ladder to keep the wheel turning. Diego was remarkable throughout the film.
While making the film, Chazelle may have assumed that his audience shares the same amount of obsession with what cinema means as he himself does. However, what exactly it mean is almost always unclear. When Manny, along with the shady crime boss, James (played by Tobey Maguire) falls down a rabbit hole, the film goes off course. It begins to paint marginalized performers as feared freaks without any subtext – neither celebratory nor comedic.
Chazelle has created an unforgettable movie. Babylon has masterfully depicted set pieces, bold and brave comedy, and a commendable ensemble cast. The ambition in Babylon is undeniable. However, what the film wants to say gets lost in the noise even with all its dazzle.