In almost every scene of his film, you can see Chazelle has had a lifelong love affair with film. So we asked the 32-year-old director for some his favorite film moments.
“Favorite film of all time?” “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Anthony Mason asked.
“’The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,’ by Jacques Demy,” Chazelle responded.
The 1964 French musical made Catherine Deneuve an international star. Every word in the film is sung. Chazelle said it was the principle inspiration for “La La Land.”
“Because if I had to send a movie to aliens and kind of describe what cinema is, what this thing called cinema is, I think that’s a movie that doesn’t even make sense on paper in a way,” Chazelle said. “’Cause it’s opera, but not opera. It’s real, but completely fake. It’s happy, but heartbreaking. Just doesn’t make sense unless you see it as a movie, and it’s the most shattering transporting work of art I’ve seen in any medium.”
His favorite song in a film is “As Time Goes By” in “Casablanca.”
“Easy choice,” Mason said.
“Yeah,” Chazelle said, with a smile.
His favorite line in a movie?
“It’s a little depressing, but ‘Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown,’” Chazelle said. It’s said by a cop to a private eye, played by Jack Nicholson, at the end of the 1974 film “Chinatown” to suggest they are strangers in a strange land.
“There’s no better closing line in movie history,” Chazelle said.
His favorite ending to a film comes from “City Lights” with Charlie Chaplin.
“Chaplin needs to have a place, you know, in that top universe,” Chazelle said.
At the end of Chaplin’s 1931 silent classic, his endearing tramp is finally recognized by a once-blind flower girl who he helped to recover her sight.
“It’s extraordinary,” Chazelle said. “Again, it’s something only movies can do. Only movies can make that moment sublime.”
And finally, his favorite scene in a movie?
“When Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance to the song ‘Cheek to Cheek’ in ‘Top Hat,’” Chazelle said.
On the surface, the 1935 musical is farcical comedy about mistaken identities.
“But when they start dancing, when they start singing… you’re not just seeing a romantic comedy anymore,” Chazelle said. “You are seeing something that, to me, has as much depth as a piece of music by Mozart or a painting by da Vinci. It is just -- it is art with a capital A.”