Q1 2023

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30 C I N E M O N T A G E C O V E R S T O R Y By Peter Tonguette I f it is true that Hollywood loves movies about itself, then the movie industry ought to be in a state of ecstasy over Damien Chazelle's new film "Babylon." The much-talked-about Paramount Pictures release, which derives inspiration from numerous personalities, incidents, and events from 1920s-era Hollywood, is like three or four Hollywood movies rolled into one. In one of multiple storylines that intersect, overlap, and spill into each other, Brad Pitt stars as Jack Conrad, a stalwart silent player whose popularity begins to slip when talkies take over. Also starring are Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy, a go-getting wannabe actress whose lack of training — and copious party-going — are no im- pediment to her own stardom; and Diego Calva as Manny Torres, a Mexican American man who makes the unlikely progression from largely ignored gofer to respected studio executive. In an epic that unspools over some 3 hours and 9 minutes, Chazelle finds room to incorporate references to the Fatty Arbuck- le scandal, the premiere of the first talkie, "The Jazz Singer," a famous early attempt at filming the musical number "Singin' in the Rain," and the outsize importance of gossip columnists, the latter embodied i n t h e f i l m by m ov i e j o u r n a l i s t E l i n o r St. John (Jean Smart). Watching — and often providing musical accompaniment to — the dizzying goings-on is yet another THE TOWER OF 'BABYLON' DAMIEN CHAZELLE'S 1920S HOLLYWOOD EPIC PRESENTED UNCOMMON CHALLENGES FOR THE POST- PRODUCTION TEAM: 'HARDEST MOVIE I'VE EVER WORKED ON.' leading character, a Black jazz musician named Sidney Palmer (Jovan Adepo) who aspires to be part of Hollywood but, in time, f inds he must walk away from it. Imagine an adaptation of Kenneth Anger's nonfiction book "Hollywood Babylon" — the experimental filmmaker's notorious chronicle of the underbelly of the picture business — as directed by, say, Robert Altman. That's "Babylon." As the post-production team explained in recent interviews with CineMontage, the mandate from Chazelle was simple. "Damien always wanted to have this movie be very maximalist in every single way," said picture editor Tom Cross, ACE. Said supervising sound editor Mildred Iatrou: "Controlled chaos." "That was kind of how it felt all the way through, just working on it, because Tom Cross, picture editor.

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