Winning the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance and a being treated to a standing ovation at Cannes isn't a bad reception for a film that last year was facing an altogether colder side of the industry- the side with no funding. But writer/director Damien Chazelle scraped together enough to produce his concept as a short, subsequently winning Sundance's Short Film Jury award. On the back of this success comes the fully realised feature length version of Whiplash, the story of Andrew, a young Jazz musician yearning to achieve greatness, in a film that has achieved just that.
'sizzles with spontaneity'
As in Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan and The Wrestler, the hero's quest for artistic perfection is dramatised through the relationship between student and mentor. And, like its predecessors, the dynamic between Andrew and his violent, self-mythologizing teacher, Fletcher, isn't exactly nurturing. But where Aronofsky's work lapsed into melodrama, Whiplash sizzles with spontaneity and an authentically human, inglorious intensity. It's here that we come to the film's rightly adulated star, ferocious new talent Miles Teller. Teller's debut alongside Nicole Kidman in psychological drama Rabbit Hole saw him hit the ground running, and he recently starred in fellow in another Sundance hitThe Spectacular Now, leaving him in immensely high demand. Whiplash could be no better showcase for Teller's talents, who was described by Chazelle as exhibiting a 'vulnerability and a rawness that most young actors don't'.
a powerful cast
The film was aided by the fact that Teller was a keen drummer since the age of 15 - albeit at a church youth group - and we're told that Teller performed the majority of the frantic, intricate drumming all by himself. Chazelle is said to have allowed takes to far overrun their necessary length to exhaust his young star, that he might evoke the same passionate devotion that spurs on the lead character to sacrifice his relationships, and even his happiness, for his art.
Hammering the fear of failure into Andrew is music maestro Terence Fletcher, played by J.K Simmons. Instantly recognisable from his popular comedic turns (notably as Ellen Page's father in Juno), Simmons' performance as Fletcher makes him now unforgettable. He is grandiose to the extreme, but where another actor might have played Fletcher as supremely monstrous, Simmons isn't afraid to subvert the character's terror with comedic nuances.
'an exhilarating, original film'
Chazelle explained how he approached filming the musical scenes as he would shooting an action scene: by intricately mapping the camera movements and angles alongside the score. In this way, the camera 'provides the kineticism' and a concert scene can pack the same adrenaline punches as 'a bank robbery'. We don't doubt it. The combined talents of director and stars make Whiplash an exhilarating, original film not to be missed.
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16 Jan 15 – 01 Apr 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
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