“Bursting into song has always been a real dream of mine,” Emma Stone told an SRO press conference at the Venice Film Festival this afternoon. The La La Land star and her director, Damien Chazelle, greeted reporters following a triumphant early-morning press screening of the musical love letter to classic Hollywood, the city of Los Angeles, dreams and dreamers.
Dreams — and hopefulness — were a big topic of discussion. Whiplash helmer Chazelle, who came to Italy a week early to soak up some local culture, said, “Now more than ever we need hope and romance on the screen. There’s something about musicals that only movies can do.” They are, he said, “movies as dreamland” where “emotion can violate the rules of reality.”
The film, which drew applause during and after this morning and has Oscar already buzzing, recounts the ups-and-downs of the relationship between Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian, an aspiring jazz pianist who meets Stone’s character Mia, an aspiring actress working as a barista on the Warner Bros lot. (Gosling is not in town as he’s on the set of the Blade Runner sequel in Hungary.)
When asked what she hoped young people would take away from the film, Stone referenced the words of Conan O’Brien when he left The Tonight Show. The largely Italian press corps didn’t exactly clock that so she explained that he had said “cynicism was the ugliest quality to him… This movie is in no way cynical. It’s about dreaming and hoping and working towards something to achieve something. I think young people have fallen into a lot of cynicism and making fun of things and pointing out the flaws in everything and this movie is anything but that. So it’s a huge joy to be able to show it to young people. This is what I hope young people will do is work hard to achieve their dreams, and hope instead of being cynical.”
Los Angeles also plays a major role in the film and part of the goal was “to see if it was possible to reconcile the things you hate and love about” the town, Chazelle explained. He and cinematographer Linus Sandgren wanted “to try to capture what L.A. feels like the first time you see it. It doesn’t feel like a real place… There’s something poetic about a city built on people with unrealistic dreams.”
Producer Marc Platt, who’s no stranger to musicals – Nine, Into The Woods, Wicked — said this experience was different. “It comes down to the storyteller… To work with a young filmmaker who takes such passion and meticulousness and love of film, which you can feel in every frame of the film, and the joy in his work was the real distinctive characteristic of my experience.”