Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog


Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on November 5, 2014 at 8:25 PM


Damien Chazelle



IDEA:  An aspring jazz drummer comes to a prestigious music conservatory, where he is subjected to the cruel, authoritarian mentorship of his ruthless instructor.

BLURB:  Rarely has giving blood, sweat and tears to your art been depicted as literally as in Whiplash, Damien Chazelle’s blistering, somatically exhausting portrait of unrelenting artistic pursuit. Through Sharone Meir’s dread-soaked cinematography and Tom Cross’s frenzied editing, the mastery of music becomes not only beautiful but potentially deadly, the act of drumming a visceral display of masculine violence that requires as much in the way of precision and elegance as in animal fury. In the combustible relationship between J.K. Simmons’ virulent instructor and Miles Teller’s increasingly fevered protégé, written and performed with great complexity, Chazelle finds a highly unnerving representation of the artist as sadomasochist, driving himself toward destruction while justifying internal and external abuse as necessary motivators. The dynamic is deliciously multifaceted, never settling for an easy mentor/mentee dialectic but shifting, in increasingly disturbing ways, the negotiation of power and dominance between the two and the dangerously symbiotic exchange of influences that reinforces the beliefs of both. Unfortunately, Chazelle often loses his thread of logic – the world he’s set up is rather ill-defined, both realistic and heightened, often veering into outlandishness – but any depiction of all-consuming artistic obsession that dares venture into territory this dark and provocative is one that can get away with spiraling out of control every now and then.

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