The director revealed that this divisive scene was not initially planned and was thought of after filming had finished.
Canal + is the official broadcaster of the Venice Film Festival 2023 In France. In addition to daily specials, the channel offers films that created a stir on the Lido. For example Babylonthis week, proposed at the time when its director, Damien Chazelle, was president of the jury.
A few hours before delivering his verdict, we are re-sharing an article devoted to his latest film, broadcast Tuesday evening encrypted and visible since to MyCanal subscribers. Beware of spoilershis words (which date from February 2023) return precisely to the scene at the end of Babylon. To read only AFTER having seen the film, therefore.
Damien Chazelle is happy that Babylon divides critics and audiences
A final sequence that leaves you perplexed. Babylon closes with a jump in time where its main character, Manny Torres (Diego Calva), returns to Hollywood and finds himself sitting in a cinema in front of Let’s sing in the rain. Manny lets go of his tear, remembering that Nellie (Margot Robbie) and he were faced with the same challenges: adapting to the arrival of talking cinema.
And then suddenly, we find ourselves spectators of a delirious final montage exploring the history of cinema in its depths, with comings and goings through more than a century of films including The journey to the moon, An Andalusian dog, Matrix, Terminator 2, Jurassic Park and even Avatar — because according to Damien Chazelle “we cannot tell the history of cinema without James Cameron“. The spectator finds himself mired in a mise en abyme from which he cannot find the exit. A contested sequence, and Chazelle laughs: “In a film filled with elephants, face-camera diarrhea and pogo sticks spraying sperm, it’s ultimately the final scene that is by far the most controversial!“
During an interview for Vulturethe director nevertheless states that this final cut was not initially planned and that the scene was just supposed to show Manny Torres marveling at Gene Kelly singing Singin’ in the Rain. “After completing most of the film, Tom Cross (the editor) and I had a moment of return to reality. We had the same feeling in the pit of our stomach: the film had not yet found its final scene. (…) the established end was not sufficient. It was disappointing“, says Chazelle. The director and his team then announced to the studio that it would be a few more weeks before they could finish the film. They organized working sessions, improvising and shaping this astonishing final cut which is built around memories of Hollywood and the future of cinema.
But how to arrive at such a scene? “When someone asks me ‘Why did you choose this or that extract?’, the only thing I can say is that we had this desire to transmit the idea of the cycle of life: death and rebirth,” admits the director. Linus Sandgrenthe chef-op, continues: “What I find magnificent in this sequence is that you connect Manny, sitting in the cinema in his time, to you, thanks to this tunnel of images. It’s a time capsule.”
Babylon: a sumptuous tragicomic fresco (review)
And yet, taking on this sequence was not easy. Tom Cross explains that some people wanted to apply a logic to this final montage which nevertheless deviates drastically from it, by its nature being largely more graphic than literal.
“If we let logic invade this sequence too much, it would destroy it. (…) This idea of going into the future, of going beyond 1952, people had a lot of difficulty accepting. They told us: ‘You had a good film and you destroyed it!’ The only justification I could use when I tried to argue was: ‘But that’s the point of the film! This is what makes it the perfect ending to Babylon. This must be a film that’s always on the verge of self-destruction.’ (…) For this film, it is not only the appropriate ending, but above all it is the only possible ending“, finally justifies Damien Chazelle.
Damien Chazelle – Babylon: “Life is a lot more fun when everyone likes your film”