Babylon ★★★

Well, I still don't know a few days later and I guess that alone is a good sign. I despised most of it on a scene by scene level, those "debaucheries" are all tease and no commitment (completely unlike the Kenneth-Anger-book, btw) and they're still the best parts, because the rest is mostly one strained bravura set piece after the other. What beats you into submission here is not "excess" but audience manipulation 101 turned to eleven, all the tricks you learned in film school on hyperdrive ... some of those tracking shots made me downright aggressive ... and on a structural level it is even more rote, with the attempts at counter-myth-making falling especially flat. I mean, nothing against film history as fever dream, but when you make a film about the history of popular entertainment in the late 20s and early 30s and skip over both the precode era and (much worse) the great depression, there just isn't any history left to deconstruct so naturally all that's left are a few feeble attempts at tokenist revisionism.

All that being said, as an aesthetic object it somehow ends up much more than the sum of its part. Say what you will about Margot Robbie's tour de force performance ... once again, a comparison of the two Robbie watching herself on screen with an audience scenes in this and OUATIA alone makes it clear what is missing here: a conception of cinema that moves beyond behavioristic cause and effect mechanics ... and yet Chazelle clearly manages to turn her into the affective center of the film. At a certain point it really does not matter anymore that neither Robbie's nor Pitt's nor to a lesser degree the other character trajectories do not make much sense historically, in fact what makes the film interesting is that they all start spiraling off away from history or rather Chazelle's distortion of it and towards a nothingness of their own choosing. Indeed the sense of dread, of everything breaking apart and vanishing into thin air becomes almost overbearing at some points during the last hour (clearly the best part), and that Chazelle tries to sell us a filmbro-jerk-off-montage and yet another uber-showy tracking shot as a beacon of hope only makes things worse.

Plus, I can't get that also extremely overeager and probably downright evil yet also clearly brilliant score out of my head.

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