BABYLON (2022)

The three-hour epic traversing the golden age of Hollywood by writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) is a commercial and critical flop. Costing $80 million, and only raking in about $42 million, the movie has been snubbed by the Oscars and critically rejected.

Maybe it’s because, while it may be a movie about movies, it’s not a love-letter to cinema. In a complete diversion from the cliché, Babylon sheds light on the jaw-dropping malpractice of the ‘silent’ era in 1920s Hollywood: the rampant misogyny and racism at its best, and the cost of human life at its worst. Plus ça change.

Starting in 1926, party crasher Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) doesn’t want to become a star; she is a star. Robbie’s performance is manic, overconfident, and inescapably toxic. Ending in 1952, former studio executive Manny Torres (Diego Calva) sits down to watch a screening of that year’s big hit: Singin’ in the Rain. Torres is overwhelmed by memories, and begins to cry. He has a vision of the future: the advent of sound and technicolour transformed Hollywood… what’s next?

The entire film is crass, violent, overtly sexual, and soaked in blood. It’s about as far away from Singin’ in the Rain as you can get. It’s a masterpiece.

Playing in IMAX theatres from 20 January 2023.

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