First Man is a far more personal film than Chazelle has ever created before
Damien Chazelle seems set on showing the world how diverse his ability as a director is. With his fourth feature film, Chazelle has offered up a human turn on a man many will know of, with only few knowing who he was as a man.
First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, is starkly different to that of Chazelle’s previous work, comparing closest to his two biggest hits. Whiplash is a tense, compact and intricately worked piece of work, appearing as a thriller disguised as a drama about a tough experience in a music school. La La Land, is a far more joyous piece which nearly won Chazelle the Academy Award for Best Picture, losing out in 2017’s announcement mix-up. La La Land’s core is its music, always showcasing it so brilliantly. And in reality, it is this exactly what runs clear in each of Chazelle’s expertly made pictures. The music.
Throughout First Man, though it doesn’t concentrate on the music, itastoundingly evident how important sound is to Chazelle as both an artist and a director. With huge impetus, he constantly pushes towards expressing his vision, and seems to be able to accomplish that regardless of what his films take focus on. First man is absolutely no different to the others in its creativity and individuality. However, First Man is a far more personal film than Chazelle has ever created before, leaving him with perhaps more work to carry out when transcribing his vision into a cinematic projection.
Yet, by teaming up with famous collaborator Ryan Gosling and a brand new superstar in Claire Foy, First Man had ample opportunity to become another Chazelle great. And for the most part, it has, but there are a few niggling issues that stop the film becoming the true force it perhaps should be.
There’s far more of a studio feel to First Man than Chazelle’s previous efforts, and that doesn’t allow for complete immersion, something the director relies heavily on. Even for a more personal film, this is not a ‘blow away the audience’ production, and has almost certainly gone too far in the wrong direction.
Other issues come from First Man’s extreme length and often arduous journey, but criticising these is essentially nitpicking, and that doesn’t do the film the justice it deserves. It is a truly quality production, but lacks the vigour Chazelle has managed to express through the majority of his work.
There is no denying it of its quality, but First Man does feel overthought, and over examined, becoming a step too far in discovering exactly the man Neil Armstrong was, rather than allowing some of the cinematic prowess audiences are now used to, to seep into the final edit.
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