I was finally able to watch La La Land! I was a little suspicious during the first thirty minutes of the movie, but after that I just loved it! And even better than the movie itself, it was the movie references that went from obvious shots and inspirations from Singing in the Rain to not so obvious Godard and Paul Thomas Anderson movies. Because of that, I decided to put together some of these inspirations that also works as a great list of films to check it out if you liked Damien Chazelle’s La La Land!
West Side Story (1961) by Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise
If you watched the beginning of the Golden Globes, you already know what the introduction of La La Land looks like. Even though the movie itself is not a musical like that, Chazelle pays homage to West Side Story and its incredible choreography by opening his movie with a single shot dance number that happens in the middle of the L.A traffic.
Singing in the Rain (1952) by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
I believe Singing in the Rain is the movie with most references in La La Land. But the most obvious one, and I dare to say the most beautiful, is the sunset dance scene between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. That scene does not only have a clear reference to this picture, but they also tap dance like Gene Kelly and Donald O’Conor. Not mentioning the whole movie itself is also about breakthroughs, talent, and star system in Hollywood.
An American in Paris (1951) by Vincente Minneli
See something similar? Yes, is the cover of La La Land! Just change the Eiffel Tower for an L.A sunset and you have a drawing of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – and yes, even the color of the dress is the same! More than this famous poster, An American in Paris is not only a similar movie with both La La Land and Singing in the Rain, but they also have some extra characteristics, like the men from the marine, the sets made by drawings, etc.
The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) by Jacques Demy
Get the choreography from West Side Story and put it at the beginning of The Young Girls of Rochefort that you will have the introduction of La La Land. Differently, from Singing in the Rain and An American in Paris, this is a French movie directed by the amazing Jacques Demy, who also tells the story of a sailor who falls in love in this amazing and colorful musical.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) by Nicholas Ray
This is obviously a movie reference because Rebel Without a Cause is not only mentioned in the movie but the characters also watch it and visit the Griffifth Observatory, which is where the movie was made. Not only that, scenes with a view from where James Dean is standing at the picture are constant throughout the movie. Could we say Ryan Goslin’s character is our James Dean pianist version? The reference is funny enough to think about.
Funny Face (1957) by Stanley Donen
Like musicals from the old days, La La Land sometimes delivers absurd scenes that are not necessarily made to make much sense. In those scenes, several references are found, and some can be taken out from Funny Face, starring Audrey Hepburn. This scene with the balloons was literally stolen for Chazelle’s new film.
A Woman is a Woman (1961) by Jean-Luc Godard
What I liked about La La Land is that when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone become a couple in the story, their relationship becomes deeper and the movie starts to mature. And some of these scenes happen in the room, while they discuss about life and their dreams, which reminded me of A Woman Is a Woman. You could say that from Breathless, but A Woman is a Woman is more evident because of the colors and especially a scene where they talk and there is a lamp beside the bed and Emma Stone is using Ryan Gosling’s shirt, which is very similar to a scene from Godard’s film.
Jules and Jim (1962) by François Truffaut
When Emma Stone sings The Fools Who Dream, she tells a story of her grandmother who used to live in Paris and one day decided to jump into the river Seine. Would her grandmother be Catherine from Jules and Jim? Because that’s exactly what happens in Truffaut’s film! Being or being her grandmother, this is clearly a reference!
Boogie Nights (1997) by Paul Thomas Anderson
There is not much of Boogie Nights in La La Land expect for two reasons. The first, are the long shots that seem to leave cars, get inside houses and go into pools. The second, is the pool scene, that is also an extremely famous scene from the movie because of how it’s shot. In La La Land, the scene is not that amazing, but the reference is pretty clear!
Young Man With a Horn (1950) by Michael Curtiz
This is the only movie that doesn’t have a clear reference in La La Land and maybe it doesn’t have any. However, I could not think about Young Man With a Horn while I was watching the film. It’s a Michael Curtiz classic from the ’50s that tells the story of a sax player who decides to play jazz for the rest of his life, no matter how much money he gets. Ironically, the falls in love with a rich and famous woman.