7/10 About five minutes into Damien Chazelle’s Babylon, an elephant shits directly onto the camera.
It’s a point-of-view shot for our main character, Manny Torres (Diego Calva), who is tasked with getting this elephant to a gigantic, depraved party at a Hollywood executive’s mansion. The anus is in the high center of the frame, perhaps a little above the top third, with the split of the beast’s legs acting as a leading line drawing your eye straight toward it. The image is so well-composed that, as the watery shit spurts out, it seems to explode out of the frame and straight down right onto my large, mostly full popcorn in my dead-center front-row seat. I had just farted as this happened, so I got to smell it a bit too.
Bel Air, California, 1926- At the party, Torres sets himself up as a fixer and begins to quickly rise through the studio ranks. The film roughly follows him, screen legend Jack Conrad (Brad Pitt) and Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie), a New Jersey runaway who’s decided she’ll take Hollywood by storm.
The film is a party, and it plays out through parties, first the opening party and then the debouched, day-long party that is the next day of production. Then things flash forward to sound’s arrival in 1932, and the music stops as all characters struggle with the new technology. The arrival of talkies is portrayed as driving a decay in Hollywood extremity.Continue reading