Director: Damien Chazelle
I was aware of several things going into Babylon (2022).
It's an original story (of sorts) about the late Silent Era of the film industry and beyond. It's clearly referencing Kenneth Anger's infamous, and not super-accurate, book, Hollywood Babylon, which I have not read, but I did listen to a whole season of You Must Remember this, which covered the subject matter and sought to split fact from legend.
I won't get into the book here, but it's a recounting of possibly/ maybe/ probably-not/ absolutely-not true stories from the era during which the film industry moved to Los Angeles from the East Coast and went kinda bonkers. Sex, death, drugs, mayhem, etc... followed.
If you have a casual interest in Hollywood history, even without specific stories to recall, you could be well aware of this era, of meteoric rises and cataclysmic falls of actors and behind-the-camera talent. It makes today's tabloid stuff look like middle-school melodrama. And, because Hollywood loves a good story, especially one that sounds true, they've been passed down, year after year until Anger codified them in his book. And now we have a nice little package that I remember hearing bits and pieces of in college and whatnot.
Going into the movie, I was also aware that the movie was at least three hours. It was all fictional but referenced the real world of Hollywood from about 1927-1935 or so, and that no one seemed to like the movie all that much. It had a $110+ million budget, and did poorly at the box office.
Having had now seen the movie, it's a three hour movie that is beautifully shot and acted. The design is... interesting.
But it feels so weirdly derivative, the story is delivered by bullet point, and it seems so surprised by things that seem obvious on their face here in the 2020's, that by the film's end - 3 hours later, I have no clue what Chazelle was trying to say or why he wanted to say it.
If this movie is for a broad audience, it feels too specific in what it's covering while filling in no details to give them the full picture of the era while also taking a very, very long time to get to the point with his storylines, while still not making you ever care about the characters.
If this movie is for film history buffs, someone with my cursory knowledge is clearly going to wind up with so many questions, their hand will involuntarily raise repeatedly throughout the film.