Dir. Damien Chazelle, U.S., Paramount
Much has been written about the final montage of Babylon and I don't feel I have much to add beyond the assertion that it is not simply an awesome monument to the magic of cinema, though the film certainly believes in the magic, but simultaneously, and perhaps antagonistically, a warning for cycles of destruction and consumption that will accomapany it past every end. I also very much think it works.
Still I want to examine the shot that comes directly before it; the crane shot that the floats past Manny and to all the other patrons of the cinema. Now an extended crane shot is an very commmon occurance in the rest of the picture; rushing through parties and sets and chaos but this one feels alltogether different. It takes a dignified pace, moving with precision through each perfectly composed image of a person of every background and race set before the screen, before rising to a geometric overhead that looks directly down. It rings hollow. As a representation of the holy congregation collected at prayer before the silver screen it feels completely false. Of course this is completely intentional and, if I'm honest, is a conception of cinema I never really believed in the first place. But what makes this shot different is that through the rest of the film, sincerity is conveyed through excess, indulgence, and punchlines. Every achivement is undercut and yet the film still finds the debauchery intoxicating. I'd argue, as a whole, the film does not lose it's grip, it still knows what is monstrous but there is no line. The end result is that the final crane ends up feeling, for the most part, facetious.
One could argue that the ending montage is the punchline to the crane shot, but the point I ultimately want to make is that though there is a greater language of cinema, a film can internally construct its own; one of tone and rhythm, that will produce its own meaning.
Feel free to skip this paragraph as it is very self-indulgent and only a note for myself. My writing so far seems to be be 'analysis' in service of understanding a form so I may eventually use what I have attempted to learn in my own work. I only wonder if this actually effective ground for criticism or is it in in some way antithetical to the goal?