La La Land
The buzz about La La Land before it opened was deafening. Here was a musical getting more attention than the competing superhero movies. As a big fan of the classic Hollywood musicals, I couldn’t wait to see it and judge for myself. That was last December, and I was traveling to India the same week the movie was opening in the US. I told myself I’d wait until I got back to the US in ten days to catch it.
I should have known better. We are living in the era of globalization, when it’s not uncommon for movies to open abroad before they open in America. As I was looking for a restaurant inside the Christmas-decorated Ambience Mall in Delhi to have dinner with my good friend Aashish Gupta, I realized that La La Land had just opened at the PVR Cinemas, a luxurious multiplex inside the mall. Needless to say, I decided we should skip dinner and catch the movie instead.
We didn’t regret the decision. The movie, besides reviving unabashedly—and knowingly—the tradition of song & dance musicals from the ‘40s and ‘50s, had intelligence and knowledge about the genre to spare. The bittersweet romance between a jazz musician and the aspiring actress he falls in love with had echoes of A Star is Born, The Band Wagon, An American in Paris, and The Belle of New York, among others.
But at the same time, it was its own movie—a brilliant homage to a genre long thought gone, brought to life with loving care, conviction, and, yes, guts. The Indian audience seemed to be enjoying it with the kind of rapture reserved for their own unique genre, the Bollywood Musical. I loved it just as much except for one complaint: Although the colors were as bright and primary as in an old Technicolor musical, the print was grainy in certain shots and sometimes not as sharp as it should have been. Ah, well, I thought—I will catch the movie in the US and figure out if it was the projection or something else.
When I later saw it at the BAM Cinematek, the same weak points with the print were still in evidence. I was disappointed, but I liked the movie so much that I decided to give it one last chance when it made it to disc.
Well, the wait was worth it. Seeing it in HD, the movie still sparkles with brilliant color but its clarity and dynamic range leave the theatrical print both in India and the US in the dust.
Years ago we used to rave, “This movie is almost as good on DVD as when we saw in the theater.” How times have changed. Now, if we want to see a movie the way the director intended, we have to wait until it comes out on video—especially on a great transfer like the one on Kaleidescape, where every bit of the picture quality is displayed on the screen just like it must have looked through the director’s viewfinder.
Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.