starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Diego Calva, Jean Smart
written and directed by Damien Chazelle
by Walter Chaw If it were only vile, only repulsive, it still would have been a disaster lacking insight and honesty, but at least it wouldn't also be afflicted with bathetic false modesty wet down with spasms of cheap sentiment. Damien Chazelle's back to his old tricks, in other words, with Babylon, a "love letter" to the end of the silent era in Hollywood presented with a child's understanding of history, obviously, not to mention human relationships, aspirations, behaviour, everything. It's a stroke fantasy made by a 13-year-old boy, meaning it's soaked in excreta without much evidence of anything like experience animating it--the movie made by the antagonist of Monty Python's "Nudge Nudge" bit, who, at the end of 10 minutes of naughty entendre, wonders rapturously what it might be like to touch a woman's breast. I loved Chazelle's last film, First Man: Sober and introspective, it found the soulfulness in an engineer's deadening grief over the loss of a child. His other three films, this one included, are a trilogy of desperation to be taken seriously as a great auteur, a great historian of jazz and Hollywood, and an artiste of the first calibre. Alas, he doesn't know the difference between being celebrated for his worst instincts versus fighting for his best ones. At the end of Whiplash, La La Land, and now Babylon, the only thing he's successfully communicated is that he's seen Singin' in the Rain, if not entirely understood it. It should take less than eight hours to accomplish that.