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BABYLON (2022, USA) – 7.5/10

Damien Chazelle, the youngest winner of the Oscar for directing, filmed a wild, extravagant, luxurious, but also somewhat exhausting drama that takes us to Hollywood at the turn of the 1920s and 1930s. At the same time, these were the years of the transition from silent to sound films, and although Chazalle, after the fantastic “Whiplash”, the irritating “La La Land” and the good “The First Man”, once again showed that he is a great director, something was left hanging for me in the air. After the full three hours that “Babylon” lasts, I asked myself what the point and meaning of the film is, which mixes history and fiction in a fun and wild way in the first part, and in a much darker, still wild way in the second.

Obviously, “Babylon” after “La La Land” is another ode to film and filmmaking, to the magic of creating illusions, but even though Chazelle’s directorial magic is very much on, I was missing something to make the whole story complete and make sense. Already from the opening scene, “Babylon” starts wildly and extravagantly. The golden age of Hollywood’s first stage is at its peak, silent film actors are the biggest stars in the world, and Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), a girl from New Jersey who claims to be a star even though she is nobody, tries to break into a wild party in the mansion of a powerful producer doesn’t (yet) know. She will immediately bewitch the young Mexican Manuel Torres (Diego Calva), but also practically all the guests of those orgy bacchanalia soaked in sex, drugs and alcohol.

Nellie will soon break into the world of film and become a really big star, this beautiful and charismatic wild girl with natural talent will quickly make her way. But very soon the film will change and with the arrival of the sound film, some of the stars of the silent film will be completely lost. And not only Nellie, but the same fate will befall the third main character of “Babylon”, the most popular silent film actor Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt), an eternally drunk seducer who reminded me of Errol Flynn, although the legendary Australian did very well in the sound film as well.

Somehow, with the transition from silent to sound, as Nellie and Jack’s star will begin to fade, so will the mood of the film completely change. From the opulent Gatsby extravagant non-stop party of orgies and debauchery, “Babylon” will become much darker. The fun and the show that seemed like it would never end are suddenly cut short, and characters like Nellie and Jack will remain just silhouettes of their former selves. Although they will try to do anything to get back, their time is simply up. The only one who will manage to some extent in this transition will be the young Mexican from the beginning of the film who started as a handler for the rich and powerful, and will push Manny to the position of executive producer in a large Hollywood studio.

“Babylon” reminded me a bit of “La La Land” in terms of its fatalism and style, because again there is a great romance which from the beginning is clear that it will not come true, and even though the film as a whole did not work until the end, three hours with “Babylon” however, they flew by relatively quickly. Everything is teeming with ingenious, wild and grotesque scenes and such characters, and while in the first half the atmosphere is more comedic, in the second part it is a dark drama. From the very beginning and the scene where Manny tries to deliver a real, upright elephant to the Hollywood mogul’s party, and when the crazy party starts, through the sensational scenes from the film set where countless silent films are being shot in parallel, everything here is visually impressive and exciting. Although “Babylon” missed out on the main nominations, it got three in the technical categories and I wouldn’t mind if it won the Oscars for production design and costumes, because it’s really unbeatable there. Everything else could still be discussed.