(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

BABYLON is about the late days of silent film and the early days of sound film. It is somewhat of a remake of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and in fact that film is referenced explicitly. But it is not the sweet family film that SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is. BABYLON is full of excess, orgiastic parties, deaths, foul language, animal cruelty, and general chaos.

Nellie LaRoy is the Lina Lamont character. It's not her voice that's the problem, though, but her incredibly low-class, vulgar background. When she tries to "pass" as upper class at a party, she replies to a question about "Miss Julie" as if she is a person she has met, thinks George Eliot is a man, and tries to fake speaking French, only to have a real French-speaker respond. Meanwhile African-American trumpeter Sidney Palmer (an earlier version of Sidney Poitier?) is startling the guests by citing Scriabin as one of his influences, and not agreeing about how good race films are. Most of the main characters are fictional, but a few lesser characters are real historical people, or at least have the same names. (See for details on who's who.)

So, okay, it's more social commentary than SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, and yes, the Oscar nominations for Music, Costumes and Production Design are well-earned, but as Lewis Carroll might have said, "It's too much of a muchness." Director Damien Chazelle is Baz Luhrmann (MOULIN ROUGE, THE GREAT GATSBY) on steroids.

And the film is over three hours long.

For fans of early film, and those who enjoy lavish visual spectacles, this is a must-see, but it can't be recommended for a general audience.

Released theatrically 23 December 2022. Rating: +1 (-4 to +4), or 6/10.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2023 Mark R. Leeper