“How can you be a revolutionary when you’re a traditionalist,” asks John Legend in “La La Land.” Damien Chazelle’s film is enamored with classic movie musicals, mashing up references and wearing its influences on its sleeve. But it’s also about how embracing the past can create innovation. Here are some of the inspirations Chazelle has cited for "La La Land."
20th Century Fox
"The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" (1964)
“La La Land” is most closely an homage to this French musical from Jacques Demy. Catherine Deneuve stars as a girl separated from her lover by war. Chazelle has professed his love for it numerous times, and you can see traces of it in his candy- colored set dressing and melancholy dirges.
Warner Brothers/Seven Arts
"The Young Girls of Rochefort" (1967)
This Demy film also inspired Chazelle, who screened it for the entire team during production. The outdoor dance sequences and widescreen aspect ratio are modeled closely in “La La Land.”
"Singin' in the Rain' (1952)
This is where it all begins. Just about every musical today owes something to Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s masterpiece. “La La Land” emulates its colors, its surreal dream sequence shot on sound stages, in the finale -- and in its cheeky satire. Like “La La Land,” “Singin’ in the Rain” pays respect to a lost era.
"An American in Paris" (1951)
Gene Kelly plays a dirt-broke artist trying to find work in Paris along with his two friends, a cabaret singer and a would-be concert pianist. Their ambitions and joie de vivre in spite of hardships are similar to those of struggling millennials Mia and Sebastian.
"The Band Wagon" (1953)
Fred Astaire dances with Cyd Charisse as he poses as a slick, private eye in the “Girl Hunt Ballet” sequence of “The Band Wagon.” The scene inside an-all pink saloon is one Chazelle refers to as a “dream ballet,” one he thought of in trying to achieve “wild, artistic risk-taking combined with real, mass audience
Sony Pictures Classics
Chazelle earned praise and Oscar nominations for this jazzy movie about extreme drive. The success of “Whiplash” helped get “La La Land” off the ground. You can see similar visual flair in both films, especially in the aggressive editing in places. And both films end with wordless, musical climaxes.
RKO Radio Pictures
"It's Always Fair Weather" (1955)
“La La Land” isn’t all rainbow colors and pure joy. It’s also somber and mournful at times. This Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse production tones down the screwball energy of “Singin’ in the Rain," telling the story of three soldiers who reconnect after 10 years to find they no longer have much in common.
"Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" (2009)
Chazelle’s first film, a black-and-white indie steeped in the jazz age, borrows as much from Jean-Luc Godard as it does “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” It has tap dancing and romance, and "La La Land" composer Justin Hurwitz composed the score and original songs.
New Line Cinema
"Boogie Nights" (1997)
Paul Thomas Anderson’s pornography opus may be an odd point of reference for Chazelle’s blissful musical romance, but Chazelle admired the film's period- piece nostalgia and used the film, along with noirs like “Sunset Boulevard” and “The Bad and the Beautiful,” as a template for characterizing LA and California
"Rebel Without a Cause" (1955)
At one point, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone’s watch James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause” and trek up to Griffith Observatory for a lovely, high-flying dance number inside the planetarium. “Rebel Without a Cause” is one of the most famous films shot in CinemaScope, which Chazelle also used.