La La Land, the latest film from director Damien Chazelle, is a stunning and magical full blown musical. It stars the wonderful Emma Stone and America’s Sweetheart, Ryan ‘Baby Goose” Gosling, as an actress and a jazz musician both longing to see their dreams come true no matter what it takes, empowering each other along the way. Personally, it’s my favorite film of the year and our very own Sal G loved it as well, as evidenced by his glowing review. It’s a tale as old as time but in the more than capable hands of Chazelle, and with the seemingly endless talent that Gosling and Stone possess (not to mention the electric chemistry they’ve displayed numerous times on screen), La La Land manages to feel fresh and quite welcoming in such dour times as these.

Here are some films to get you ready for what’s in store:

1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Directed by Jacques Demy, 1964)

Probably the most direct influence on Chazelle and his La La Land is this high water mark of musical cinema. Directed by Jacques Demy in 1964, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg for the traditionalists) features a tale of two lovers that is also broken up into acts and told from both parties’ perspectives at different points in their lives. The film also features a young Catherine Deneuve in her breakout performance leading to even bigger successes with Repulsion (1965) and Belle De Jour (1967). Highly recommended viewing.

2. The Young Girls Of Rochefort (Directed by Jacques Demy, 1967)

Demy gets another revisit with an equally wonderful companion film to Umbrellas, reuniting the director with his muse Deneuve. Continuing the director’s penchant for bold color aesthetics and a brilliant use of frame, Rochefort is yet another song and dance tale from varying perspectives that manages to touch and tug at the viewer’s heartstrings.

3. Pennies From Heaven (Directed by Herbert Ross, 1981) 

A depression-era musical starring Steve Martin, Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken? Sign me up! Themes of chasing dreams and the type of confusion that only love can bring tie this early 80’s film to the wondrousness that is La La Land. Music as escapism is also an incredibly strong through line within both films.

4. Rebel Without A Cause (Directed by Nicholas Ray, 1955)

Not only is this classic an obvious influence on La La Land, Sebastian and Mia actually go to the movies and watch it! It doesn’t get much more influential than that. Rebel Without A Cause was also one of the first big pictures to utilize the new presentation Cinemascope, which Chazelle has also presented in his latest to wondrous effect.

5. The Shape Of Things (Directed by Neil Labute, 2003)

While I don’t know if this film had any direct influence on La La Land, there’s an underlying theme in this film that ties in directly to an aspect of its plot – it’s an idea that will remind some that love can be brutal just as much as it is wonderful. Plus this film has an incredible cast featuring Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz and Gretchen Mol and doesn’t get near the attention it deserves.

6. Singin’ In The Rain (Directed By Stanley Dolan and Gene Kelly, 1952)

I mean, what list of musicals would actually be complete without the universally acclaimed #1? A song and dance picture unlike anything before it and endlessly imitated after, Singin’ in the Rain is pure song and dance perfection. While La La Land doesn’t so much as borrow or homage directly, there’s a certain feeling to the proceedings that make it feel like a spiritual successor, replete with its dazzling routines and all-around sense of wonder and fun.

La La Land is currently out in select cities and opens to even more Dec. 16th. Do yourself a favor and see it as soon as possible – you can check these out along the way, or after, if you need that extra fix.

MH