La La Land hits Blu-ray and DVD today. During the release of the film, and frequently in the bonus materials, writer/director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz talked about the influence of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rochefort on the film. Fortuitously, The Criterion Collection released Blu-rays of both films earlier this month too. A new re-release of A League of Their Own is also out this month but I can’t tie that in to La La Land.
La La Land
La La Land’s dancers bound across a sharp, clear widescreen frame. The way Chazelle brought out the beautiful colors of this city really shine on Blu-ray, Or frankly the way he and cinematographer Linus Sandgren added color. The costumes really stand out from the big city environments. Even more, the stage fantasy scene blow up the color even harder because they can in an artificial environment.
With the Blu-ray exclusives there are 80 minutes of extras. go behind the scenes on the freeway shoot, including Chazelle’s iPhone rehearsal, and again for party scene and Ryan Gosling’s piano lessons. The extras become more sound bite pieces but the passion of the filmmakers and stars of La La Land comes through. Plus they’re all smart enough to give more sincere sound bites than the usual, and allow the editors to keep these pieces concise and moving along. It’s technical, it’s thematic, it’s artistic, just like the movie
In Chazelle and Hurwitz’s audio commentary, you hear a lot more deep cut musical references. I made a watchlist of more musicals I want to watch. Now that all songs so memorable can you imagine each was on the chopping block? And we lost the overture. They are dryly self-deprecating and it seems they’ve heard common criticisms of La La Land by the time they recorded this, or they anticipated them.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
I knew about this classic French musical, which is entirely sung, and had seen it several times before La La Land including on the big screen. The restored Blu-ray has colors are so bright, from bedroom wallpaper to Catherine Deneuve’s golden blonde hair. You see detail in the slick stone streets in the rain and the train station platform, with snowfall in the final scene. The parade just explodes on your screen. It maintains the grain of ’60s film but it’s sharper than we ever see on TCM.
An hour long documentary on Umbrellas includes an old black and white Demy interview, giving social and political context. Hear composer Michel Legrand playing samples on piano, and look at old standard def clips to see how people had to watch this movie for decades.
Film scholar Rodney Hall talks about Demy’s place in the French New Wave which interests Film School Fred. He makes me want to see Lola too and the black and white footage looks great in HD.
Audio from Legrand and Deneuve’s separate appearances at National Film Theater get a bit frustrating like listening to a public Q&A always goes. It covers the basics but really goes over stuff that’s pretty common. The restoration demo appealed to my tech geek to see the film machines transfer material to digital accuracy.
The Young Girls of Rochefort
On this Blu-ray, you can see the curve of the old school widescreen lens as dancers perform choreography across entire frame. The costumes at multi-colored but not flamboyant. It’s just each dancer wears a different shirt or hat. The blonde and ginger hair bobs are just perfect in HD. The backgrounds are a pretty pure white slate, whether the buildings of Rochefort or the walls of art studios. And of course you get to visit the streets of France in 1967 and peer into dance studio windows.
More black and white Demy/Legrand interviews give us a look into their composing sessions and they discuss music theory. Demy’s longtime costume designer spoke with Criterion in 2013. She’s responsible for those colorful costumes we appreciate anew in HD. She also confirms that more subtle colors than Umbrellas was the intent. The Young Girls bonus features speak to Umbrellas too. The films truly go together.
There is a 35 minute behind the scenes in depth on Rochefort, and that’s only part two of a six part French series. They actually painted the building exteriors to achieve the look! We see them building the interiors too. The 25th anniversary piece is a 66 minute long Agnes Varda film, and that’s already a 24-year-old film itself. Deneuve is part of this and Varda takes dancers back to the locations and even speaks to locals who participated in the film.
They already had a 20th anniversary Blu-ray, but a quarter century is still a legacy worth celebrating. The movie can’t look any better. The bright, lush baseball fields shine unlike any I’ve been to in real life, and I’ve been to Dodger Stadium. The costume drama of it all is full of rich detail and texture, and there’s a dustbelt vibe to the road trip through WWII america.
There’s only one new bonus feature but for 12 minutes they got Geena Davis and her Rockford Peach costars back to reflect on the film. Their emotion is contagious and the new part is Davis’s work on gender representation. The Bentonville Film Festival encourages it by offering distribution as a prize.