Damien Chazelle’s latest Hollywood hit
Damien Chazelle, writer and director of the Academy Award-nominated film “Whiplash” and a 2003 alumnus of Princeton High School, has another hit on his hands.
“La La Land,” also written and directed by Chazelle, debuted at the Venice Film Festival in August to rave reviews and received the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The musical romantic comedy set in Los Angeles follows a musician (Ryan Gosling) and actress (Emma Stone) who fall in love. J.K. Simmons, who won the Academy Award for best supporting actor in “Whiplash,” also plays a role. Justin Hurwitz, Chazelle’s classmate at Harvard, composed the songs and score for “La La Land.”
A wide release is scheduled for Friday, December 16.
As Todd McCarthy writes for Hollywood Reporter: “If you’re going to fall hard for Damien Chazelle’s daring and beautiful La La Land, it will probably be at first sight. There’s never been anything quite like the opening sequence: Traffic is at a standstill on the high, curving ramp that connects the 105 freeway to the 110 leading to downtown Los Angeles. Most of the cars are occupied only by single drivers, who are all listening to different music. But after a moment, instead of just sitting there simmering, somebody gets out and starts singing and dancing. Soon someone else does the same. Then another, and yet another, until a bad mood has been replaced by a joyous one as the road becomes the scene for a giant musical production number set to an exuberant big-band beat.
“Aside from wondering how the filmmakers managed the logistics of pulling off such an audacious location shoot, lovers of classic musicals will be swept away by this utterly unexpected and original third feature from Damien Chazelle (opening this year’s Venice Film Festival). From a commercial point of view, the looming question for this Summit/Lionsgate release, set for December openings, is whether younger audiences will buy into the traditional conceits that Chazelle has revitalized, as well as into the jazz and lyrical song-and-dance numbers that fill the soundtrack.”
Art from Asia
Princeton University Art Museum offers a lecture in conjunction with the exhibit “Contemporary Stories: Revisiting South Asian Narratives,” The exhibit explores the power and role of narrative through the works of five internationally renowned artists.
Guest curator Rashmi Viswanathan speaks on “The Elusive Icon: A Look at the Politics of Iconography in Contemporary South Asian Art” on Thursday, November 10, at 5:30 p.m. in McCosh 50. A reception follows in the art museum.
Opening at the museum this month is “Epic Tales from India: Paintings from the San Diego Museum of Art,” on view from Saturday, November 19, through February 5, 2017. The exhibit will show 90 paintings, usually seen as independent works of art, in context with the literature they were created to illustrate. The images introduce viewers to a range of sacred and secular texts from the 12th to 19th centuries. For more information visit artmuseum.princeton.edu.
Grim Humor at the Bolshoi
‘Bolshoi Confidential,” the latest from Princeton University music professor Simon Morrison, takes readers through 235 years of Russian history using the lens of the prominent Moscow ballet company.
Bob Blaisdell, reviewing “Bolshoi Confidential” for the Christian Science Monitor, writes that Morrison “gives the Bolshoi a first-rate historical treatment. Thoroughly scholarly and simultaneously astute and clear-voiced, he sometimes has to carry out what seems like archeology to discover how the business and the art of the Bolshoi proceeded.”
He continues: “After an introductory narrative about the Bolshoi’s last blockbuster scandal, the blinding by acid of its artistic director Sergey Filin in 2013 at the instigation of a resentful dancer, Morrison proceeds more or less chronologically.
“The Bolshoi had its modest beginning in 1780 during Catherine the Great’s reign when an English con-man named Michael Maddox opened a variety theater called the Petrovsky. Like the Music Man, Maddox never got caught so tightly by his creditors that he couldn’t slip out of their grasps; he always landed on his feet with someone else footing the bill. The present Bolshoi Theater stands a stone’s throw or two from the Kremlin and dates from 1825, after its previous structure burned down to the marshy ground.”
Morrison, Blaisdell writes, does not shy away from the horrors of Soviet history. He “is admiring of and amazed by the survival and occasional flourishing of balletic art despite the aggressive interference by authorities” and “conveys a grim humor at the thought of officials dictating ballets featuring factory workers and their machines.”
“Bolshoi Confidential” is available at Labyrinth Books, $35. For more information, visit princeton.edu/~simonm.
Last word on Esperanto
Princeton University English professor Esther Schor presents her new book, “Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language,” on Thursday, November 17, at 6 p.m. at Labyrinth Books.
The spark for this new language came in 1887 when Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish Jew, imagined putting an end to tribalism by creating a universal language, which, in the words of the press release announcing this event, “would be equally accessible to everyone in the world. The result was Esperanto, a utopian scheme full of the brilliance, craziness, and grandiosity that characterize all such messianic visions.
Schor’s book is believed to be the first full history of Esperanto. A poet and scholar, Schor received a BA in English and music from Yale in 1978 and her Ph.D. in English from Yale in 1985. She moved to Princeton in 1986.
Schor’s book traces the life of Esperanto from its turn-of-the-century golden age to its suppression by nationalist regimes, and then to its resurgence in the Cold War. “She plunges into the mechanics of creating a language that would be easy to learn, politically neutral, and allow all to speak to all,” according to the press release. “Esperanto failed to stem the continent’s bloodletting, of course, but the ideal continues to draw a following of modern universalists dedicated to its visionary goal.”
Music at the Arts Council
The Box Project holds an EP release concert at the Arts Council of Princeton on Saturday, November 19, at 8 p.m. The instrumental ensemble specializing in “psychedelic surf jazz” consists of Dave “Bam Bam” Eural on drums, Sam Kaplan on bass and acoustic guitar, and Arts Council Executive Director Jeff Nathanson — who is retiring at the end of 2016 — on electric and acoustic guitars. Tickets ($15) will be available at the door 30 minutes before show time.
New works now online
Modern music enthusiasts who missed the July concert “Scores: New Orchestral Works” at Richardson Auditorium can now listen to the performance anytime on Q2, the online station of station WQXR.
The live New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performance featured new works by the four composers from the Composition Institute, as well as a work from Institute director Steven Mackey, a music professor at Princeton.
The composers drew inspiration for their works from different sources. Matthew Browne’s “Farthest South” imagines an unusual encounter on Ernest Shackleton’s “Nimrod Expedition” to Antarctica; James Anderson’s “Places with Pillars” is about the extraordinary events upon which people place meaning in their lives. Jung Yoon Wie’s “Water Prism for Orchestra” illustrates the phenomenon of light passing through a prism and forming a rainbow; Will Stackpole was moved to write “… Ask Questions Later” as a reaction to gun violence headlines. Mackey wrote his celebratory, rhythmic “Turn the Key” for the 2006 opening of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
The broadcast also includes interviews with the Institute composers
Man made nature
‘The Built World,” the exhibit on view in the Anne Reid Gallery at Princeton Day School through Thursday, November 10, features two artists creating works of art from natural materials: bonsai by Chase Rosade, owner of Rosade Bonsai Studio in New Hope, and handmade wooden furniture by Chris Maher. For more information visit pds.org.
At the D&R Greenway, the juried exhibit Farms, Barns and Bridges is on view through Friday, December 16. An opening reception takes place Friday, November 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
In its call for submissions the Greenway noted: “A century ago, our landscape was dominated by farmland, with its rolling hills, patchwork grids of planted rows, silos, barns, and covered bridges. As cities began their sprawl, much of this farmland became extinct. Today, the few barns and covered bridges that remain are prized, and repurposed barn wood is coveted by architects and designers. Often, of memories of the rural landscape are preserved by artists who convey these scenes.”