Friday, October 12, 2018

First Man

You can not deny ambition as Damien Chazelle's filmmaker. Nor his express wish to leave evidence in each image of his films of his personality behind the camera. First Man, after the success and the importance in different areas of La la land, supposes a considerable distancing, not only in questions of cinematographic genre, also at an expressive, argumental and discursive level. In this sense, one can not accuse the filmmaker of comfort after success, but of looking for other creative drifts, of continuing to investigate the image within very personal parameters that allow for the awareness of this authorial consciousness on the part of Chazelle, the pair his belief in the image as a narrative vehicle.

In First Man, based on the script by Josh Singer adapting the book by James R. Hansen, the period between 1961 and 1969 focuses on the life of Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling), which ranges from the loss of his daughter to a brain tumor on arrival at the moon. The first images leave evidence of some stylistic elements of Chazelle in search of an intimate, personal epic, denying in many cases the panoramic view and approaching the characters -to their faces- to form an epic spectacle that does not deny the context, nor even the critique, to certain elements related to the North American space race and the moment of social crisis of the country in different aspects, but that has more interest in the personal process of Armstrong in achieving the goal of reaching the Moon in a cathartic way, as Overcoming a pain and trauma. Objective, on the other hand, as disproportionate if you like as the space race itself, a relationship between both aspects that First Man shows perhaps in a more subtle and tangential way than developed (notes through television or like that moment with the song Whitey on the Moon of Gil Scott-Heron that is emphatic, although it works perfectly). There is no desire in First Man, or not at all, to lead the story through historical review, not at least in a broad way, let alone form a proud narrative about the space race. Quite the contrary, it is drowned out and cold about it, more interested in placing Armstrong in his personal and intimate and, ultimately, familiar journey, with the increasing tension in his marriage relationship with Janet (Claire Foy).

With a montage that places great emphasis on the relationship between image and music, Chazelle's favorite area of ​​exploration until the moment, the film seeks to create an immersive cinematographic space based on a slow rhythm, perhaps in excess, but which, of course, contravenes modes of the story, not so much by settling in past modes as by playing with the forms of the docudrama, creating strong tonal contrasts between moments of pause, everyday, with those related to astronauts, and with Armstrong in particular, in its lunar mission. Chazelle's ambition in this regard may be that of a certain distancing to deliver a melodrama, ultimately choked and cold, but that works in its internal drive and tension, and that it does better when the approach to Armstrong is concerned, perhaps because the director, despite being based on a foreign script, which makes us understand that reading the character part of the script writer, is identified, not so much, with the obsession of Armstrong. In this sense, the astronaut becomes a perfect character in the now short filmography of Chazelle, in his drive between personal motivations and the reality that surrounds him: the lunar images, which due to the IMAX format leave the grain of photography, as well Evidence: Armstrong, despite being making history, thinks about his mission, what has taken him there. Chazelle shows the reflections on his helmet, highlighting the almost personal annulment that has led him there; but also its success over any consideration, finally achieving a double liberation, the personal and, as the last images show, that of his wife, Janet, who perhaps understands, finally, what moved her husband. First Man can be irregular, it can be somewhat cold, but of course he has a great sense of the cinematographic image and gives moments of great cinema, always with the burden of a filmmaker whose talent is, at the same time, his great virtue and his great default.

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