Damien Chazelle opened for the second time at the Venice Film Festival, and once again he did not disappoint.
1969 is the year in which fantasy became reality, that fantasy that was fed by literature first and then by cinema since the first short films by Méliès of the early 1900s. And almost 50 years after the Apollo 11 mission, “First Man” introduces us to its most famous protagonist: Neil Armstrong.
Behind and in Front of the Camera
Damien Chazelle does not know how to do things small and has already widely demonstrated it by going to the Oscars with his second feature, “Whiplash,” and rocking the City of Stars with his third, “La La Land.“
For the first time away from his jazz, we now find him facing a biopic that tells the story one of the American heroes (and of the whole humanity, according to the Canadian Ryan Gosling) par excellence. Falling into banality is a real and dangerous risk when it comes to telling a story so well-known down to the last detail on a world scale, but Chazelle has shown that he has already acquired his own well recognizable and high-quality style.
Even when the music is not the protagonist, Damien manages to create a symphony inside the film, telling the life and career of Neil Armstrong as a giant waltz between the Earth and the Moon, between humanity and space, between the man and life and consequently also death.
To bring his ideas to life we find (once again) Ryan Gosling, who, role after role, is showing us that his career is experiencing a golden age, whether he is a jazz dreamer, a replicant, or a history-making man.
At his side, the talented Claire Foy who, even if she has abandoned the role of Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown” has certainly not left her determination.
Who’s Got the Typewriter
For the first time, Chazelle leaves the screenplay to different hands, relying on the experience of Josh Singer, Academy Award winner for “Spotlight,” which premiered at the 72nd Venice Film Festival. Singer is specialized in historical screenplays, from his first experiences with “The West Wing” to “The Post.”
What to Know (ABSOLUTELY NO SPOILERS)
“First Man” tells the story of Neil Armstrong, from working at Boeing to the Gemini project up to the Apollo 11, basically the history of NASA. Everything is seen through his eyes: from the tragedies in his life, his family, his friends and everything that means being one of the space pioneers.
What You’ll Need
If you already know everything about the landing on the Moon, then you just need to enjoy this spectacular film made by Chazelle, even though “First Man” still manages to surprise.
What They Say
During the press conference in Venice, Damien Chazelle said, ”All the movies I have done so far were born from my personal experiences, while this is a collective experience, so I wanted to have as much time as necessary to understand how to make this film at its best. It was a way to put yourself in the shoes of someone else by understanding him as much as possible, and by creating a very personal story that focused on the family reaction, like ‘Oh look, Dad is going to the Moon’.”
Ryan Gosling: “I had a lot of help to play Neil, from his children to his ex-wife, people who knew him from childhood who opened us their doors and showed us a real Neil’s museum. It is known that he was a very humble and reticent person, so the challenge was to leave this part of his character while opening a window on his emotions. To prepare myself for this character I learned to fly, to really understand that world, and the character himself. And I realized why he became a great astronaut and I didn’t.
Damien had in his mind the film already before “La La Land.” He had the two movies in his head simultaneously, and they are both movies that are suitable for the big screen and that we all would like to experiment somehow. I think Damien has a very strong instinct for what people want to see and has the talent of connecting people with cinema, and with his cinema too.”
Claire Foy: “What I wanted to focus on was to communicate the parents’ side to the audience. We asked his children if they remembered who used to tell the fairy tales, who bathed them, who was the good cop and who the bad one in the house. That’s because I wanted to be respectful of their lives, and they were very kind by laying their history in our hands.”
One Last Thing…
Just like with his previous films, in “First Man” we find again the exceptional collaboration between Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz, who proves to be a great composer also far from his jazz’s original world by creating a soundtrack halfway between his usual genre and the “Zimmer” one.
But the real protagonist of the soundtrack are paradoxically the silences, which are opposed to the excellent music of Hurwitz and the continuous noises that go along with the astronaut’s life, from the loud ones of the fuels to the worrying and constant squeaks.
Once again, “First Man” respects the realistic experience that we all live while watching this great film.
Out of 5 Lions (Venice Edition):