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Damien Chazelle, Director Of 'La La Land', Gives His Take On L.A.

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Say what you will about Damien Chazelle's La La Land, it will no doubt become a lasting portrayal of Los Angeles in the minds of millions for years to come. Yet, Chazelle, 32, is not a SoCal native—he grew up in New Jersey. In fact, he hasn't even lived in Los Angeles for a decade. So, is La La Land how Chazelle himself views L.A.? Or was the city just a necessary backdrop for a story about a struggling actress and musician?

“I had some negative conceptions of Los Angeles, but I was willing to try something other than the East Coast because I wanted to do movies,” Chazelle told the New York Times in a recent interview. “For a few years, there were ups and downs, but I slowly became smitten. I had never lived in a city with palm trees, and now I’ve been here for almost nine and a half years.”

"It's a city that can make people feel [lonely] in a very profound way—even more profound than other cities where life spills out onto the streets," Chazelle told KPCC's The Frame in December. "There's less street life in L.A. so it can be isolating, it can be lonely. So I wanted to be very honest and upfront about that and not try and paint a sugar-coated love letter to the city. "

Chazelle, however, does admire that Los Angeles is full of people chasing their dreams.

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“There something to be said for having even unrealistic dreams," he began, notes The Guardian. "Even if the dreams don’t come true—that to me is what’s beautiful about Los Angeles. It’s full of these people who have moved there to chase these dreams. A lot of those people are told by people around them that they’re crazy, or that they’re living in la la land. I wanted to make a movie that saluted them a little bit, and that kind of unrealistic state of mind.”

In addition to filming in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach, and Long Beach, Chazelle discussed his decision to film in Pasadena with the Times.

"Pasadena is really wonderful," the writer/director noted. "The city is one the best places for architecture in the Los Angeles area since so much has been preserved there. The Colorado Street Bridge [which features a scene with Mia and Sebastian] is one of those places. There are also the homes of silent movie stars. Pasadena seemed far away from where I was living."

So what movies does Chazelle look to as representative of Los Angeles?

“Countless movies have shot in Los Angeles and in many of them the city emerges as a character in its own right: sometimes beautiful, sometimes ominous, always fascinating," he told Fandango, notes IndieWire. "I picked the following great L.A. movies because each captures a distinct time, place and feeling in Southern California history and culture, and each reminds me of why I love movies in the first place.”

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1. Boogie Nights
2. Chinatown
3. Heat
4. Killer of Sheep
5. The Long Goodbye
6. Pulp Fiction
7. Rebel Without a Cause
8. Singin' in the Rain
9. A Star Is Born (1954)
10. Sunset Boulevard