The melancholy turn taken by La La Land injects an anti-sentimental strain into its story and insulates it from being regarded as mere Hollywood froth. As the easily digestible, low-fi delights of Damien Chazelle’s crowd-pleaser are propelling it to a potential Oscar sweep on Sunday, the enjoyably nasty La La Land as Directed by David Lynch comes as a welcome antidote to all that La La love.
Part satire, part homage, this latest Mashable Studios production, which Cinefix has posted on its YouTube channel, recasts Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as a stalker and Mia (Emma Stone) as the object of his obsession. The film draws on memories of the ghostly, sordid Los Angeles of Lynch’s neo-noirs Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, and their sick and neurotic denizens.
The Seb of the trailer keeps showing up where Mia doesn’t expect or want him to be. Their relationship, whatever it was, feels like a curdled version of the idealized romance of Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sandy (Laura Dern) in Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), or like a prelude to the doomed marriage of Lost Highway‘s Fred (Bill Pullman) and Renée (Patricia Arquette).
The two-shot montage of Seb answering a phone call from himself comes straight from the Bill Pullman–Robert Blake party scene in Lost Highway, The shots of Seb stretched out, the apprehensive Mia at a party (photo at top), and of Mia approaching her Nevada house on a night that morphs into dawn are all reminiscent of scenes in Lost Highway.
Lynch, of course, would have pushed Mia’s character much further than the available clips from La La Land allow. He would, for a start, have given her an alternative identity as the femme fatale in Seb’s fevered imagination. She’d be less like Stone’s faux “dirty skank” in Easy A, or the squeaking hotdog poster girl she played on her recent Saturday Night Live appearance, than Arquette’s porn actress-cum-moll in Lost Highway—the phantasm the jailed Fred invents to torment himself.
Lynch would be unlikely to subvert Stone’s sweetheart image to the extent he would render her a psychotic nympho (like Carmen Sternwood in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep), but the idea of her stalking her stalker, à la Isabelle Huppert in Elle, is not unpleasing.
We’re miles here from La La Land‘s innocent scenarios—boy-meets-girl, girl-gives-boy-the-finger, boy-douses-girl’s-shirt-in-coffee. But burrowing under surface normality and giving desire a sadomasochistic twist is a Lynch specialty, as when Jeffrey is seduced by Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and she asks him to slug her during sex.
Similarly, Lynch would endow La La Land’s settings—including the Warner Bros. backlot, the Griffith Observatory, the Angel’s Flight funicular, and the Chateau Marmont—with the same mythic aura and moral dankness he brought to Mulholland Dr.‘s locations.
Whereas Chazelle shot L.A. as if he had been reading a guide book, Lynch filmed the Il Borghese apartments, the Palace Theatre, 2900 Griffith Park Blvd., the Sunset Ranch Corral, Runyon Canyon Park, and Mulholland itself as if he had steeped himself in the purple prose, prurient photos, and indulged schadenfreude of Kenneth Anger’s Tinseltown exposé Hollywood Babylon.
It makes one wonder how Ryan Gosling would have sounded singing “City of Stars” after inhaling amyl nitrate, the stimulant favored by Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) in Blue Velvet. But, no, let’s not go there—let Seb’s croon survive and the melody linger on.