You're not ready for Babylon. Damien Chazelle's latest film is both a love letter to film, but also an unflinching look at the cultural shift in Hollywood around the 1930s. There's a reason early reactions have called this La La Land but on a whole lot of cocaine...
Indeed, the fast cutting and general bad behavior witnessed in the first trailer drew comparisons to Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which famously introduced the world to Margot Robbie. Robbie, who has a leading role in Babylon, says that when she first read the script, "I was like, 'Oh, wow, it’s like if The Wolf of Wall Street and La Dolce Vita had a baby.'"
"I guess I’d say the idea of an epic, hard-R comedy... that sort of language is definitely something that I loved in The Wolf Of Wall Street," Chazelle says while talking to Total Film for the new issue of the magazine, featuring Oppenheimer on the cover. "I definitely see the comparison. When I was putting the movie together, there was a whole range of things I was trying to draw from. And it would range from prototypical great American movies about a society that changes – along the lines of the Godfather pictures or Nashville. Ensemble pieces, on one hand. And then on the other hand, pictures like Animal House. So I won’t be surprised if there’s a lot of different associations people pick up on."
Chazelle’s influences embraced the lowbrow as much as the highbrow. "My Director of Photography, Linus Sandgren, and I, we talked about contrasts, and how we wanted the sun-blasted exteriors, where you really felt the LA sun beating down on you, and there are these vividly colorful, dark, dripping-like-an-oil-painting interiors. So it’d kind of be a Leone western outside, and a Visconti costume picture inside."
Robbie, meanwhile, can see the similarities in Chazelle and her former director Scorsese. "[Chazelle] really is a cinephile,” she says. "He knows every film ever made, in a way that I really remember Scorsese had an insane knowledge of film. So many directors do, of course. But if you go to his house and mention one movie, you walk away with 15 DVDs. He gave me so many brilliant films to watch, which I just loved.”
Babylon opens in US cinemas on December 23, before opening in the UK on January 20. For more on the film, from Brad Pitt, Damien Chazelle, Margot Robbie, and more, pick up a copy of Total Film’s 2023 Preview issue, fronted by Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. You can pre-order here, and the magazine will be available in shops and on digital newsstands from Thursday, December 15. The print version of this new issue comes with a special 52-page supplement counting down the best films, must-see moments, and breakout stars of 2022.
And if you’re a fan of Total Film, why not subscribe so that you never miss an issue? You get the magazine (and any special supplements) delivered to your door before its in shops, and you’ll save money on the cover price. Plus, with our current subscription offer, you can get a free pair of EarFun Air wireless earbuds worth £55. What are you waiting for? Subscribe now at Magazines Direct. (Ts and Cs apply.)