Babylon: Damien Chazelle knows how good stories from the transition of silent cinema to talkies can be; it’s no surprise that he quotes one of the most entertaining films ever so often. As a matter of fact, a few of the protagonists of this film are more risqué renditions of characters out of that classic. It is a long film that never drags (very fine editing done by Tom Cross), even if Chazelle seems unsure if he is paying homage to the pioneers of cinema or criticizing the excesses of the Roaring Twenties in Tinseltown; one way or another it is a love letter to cinema. Additionally, the film doesn’t use a few of their character particularly well. That’s a bit of a waste of a diverse and strong main cast: Margot Robbie never exuded this much raw sexuality, and she is quite good as the up-and-coming silent film star; Brad Pitt plays this sort of rascally charming, somewhat goofy charming, quite well, but his old fading star has tragic undertones that he projects perfectly; Diego Calva plays the gopher with a dream, and he is the emotional core of the film. Jean Smart has the film’s best scene as an entertainment journalist, for lack of a better word.
The film is a lot, and there is a lot of it. The production design, by Florencia Martin, is very rich and varied; the same could be said of costume designer Francine Maisler’s work. Composer Justin Hurwitz’s musical score quotes often his own previous work with the same director from La La Land, and it shares the same jazzy catchiness; if anything it’s more intense and energetic than that score. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren captures it all, colors and lights aplenty, with great aplomb.