One of the characters in the critical darling, Oscar-contending film La La Land is a struggling jazz musician. Sebastian, played by Ryan Gosling, doesn’t want to adapt and give up on the genre despite the lack of income he’s struggling with.
Director Damien Chazelle replied to Yahoo Movies’ Kevin Polowy that, yes, his movie may indeed attempt to preserve jazz … and more. “To a certain extent,” Chazelle agreed, before qualifying it. “But I think it was also, it’s just the idea that any art form that feels like it’s been labeled as ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘not modern’ or ‘not popular anymore,’ so that could apply to jazz; it also applies to musicals, I think.”
This isn’t Chazelle’s first movie to feature jazz; Whiplash (2014) is about a young jazz drummer, and Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2010) features a jazz trumpeter.
“To me it’s really about this whole idea of just things that seem they’re of the past,” Chazelle continued. “I wanted to take stuff that you think is not relevant to today. Whether that’s jazz or musicals, or what have you, and yank it to the present and make it feel urgent and timely, and contemporary.”
Jazz might be not as popular as it once was, but it still captures the attention of many filmmakers. Born to Be Blue and Miles Ahead are two other movies featuring the art form just released in 2016. The genre is also having a slight resurgence thanks to popular rappers like Kendrick Lamar hiring backup jazz bands.
“The thing about jazz is that actually jazz never died,” Chazelle said. “It’s just that people have stopped listening as much as they did. And certainly jazz has changed. There’s amazing jazz being made.”
How Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling prepared for La La Land: