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Critics reviews
Whiplash
Damien Chazelle United States, 2014
It’s a nearly great film, a twisted masterpiece of sorts, about the drive to create art, and a rare film about music that seems to have been made by someone who understands the physical experience of making music: the way players in an ensemble seem to merge with the score, the conductor, and each other when they start to cook.
January 30, 2016
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This dazzling, exhilarating drama from the young American director Damien Chazelle isn’t a story about the roles played by misery and humiliation in forging a great artist. It’s a story about what happens when people believe that’s how great artists must be forged: both the mentors raining down pressure and the pupils whose souls are on the anvil.
June 16, 2015
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At his most sympathetic, Fletcher explains himself to Andrew, in what we discover is a most duplicitous moment. So what, if anything, as a mentor, does he stand for? Despite its outstanding performances, the film fails to live up to its own potential in engaging the audience in far more meaningful ways. For a film that places so much attention on Charlie Parker, a man known for taking risks in his art, Whiplash plays it all too regrettably safe.
February 25, 2015
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Had Fletcher been leaning over Chazelle’s shoulder in the writing room, snapping at every mistake, such lapses of judgement might have been corrected. Nevertheless, Whiplash ends on a high note: Andrew’s dazzling solo performance before a sold-out JVC festival crowd, with Fletcher egging him on. It’s here that the film settles into precisely the right groove, with its two leads and the practice that binds them – and no moral lessons or supporting characters to get in the way.
January 16, 2015
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This is a rabidly intelligent debut with a finale that is a fast-paced montage shot from above and below, in close up and in wide, cutting from instrument to instrument in perfect time to jazz standard, ‘Caravan’. As pumping a finale as this is, there are sufficient reminders along the way that one man’s dream is another’s grotesque isolation. Chazelle has made a film that entertains as it interrogates.
January 15, 2015
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As a psychological drama about an overbearing teacher’s emotional torture of a student, Whiplash is mildly successful. As a film about a student and a professor of jazz, Whiplash is as monumental a failure as one could imagine.
January 01, 2015
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Everything about the performances in the film, especially the rehearsal techniques, struck me as unmusical. The parts where the director kept cutting the band off after it had played for half a second made me want to holler. The film shows a student practicing to the point of bloodshed and trying to play fast swing with a right arm that’s so rigid it looks like it could be in cast.
January 01, 2015
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Whenever [Teller and Simmons] share the screen, sparks fly, and director Damien Chazelle clearly knows it, introducing one subplot involving a potential romantic interest for Andrew only to quickly scuttle it. If Whiplash ultimately appears to suggest that great artists are the products of great tyranny—a discomfiting notion—it’s worth noting that there any many historical cases (e.g., Mozart) that support the idea. In any case, it definitely makes for engrossing mano-a-mano action.
November 12, 2014
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Edits occur on a rigid, rhythmic beat (call it young Eisenstein), while the consistently sickly pallor of the visuals makes it clear that this master-servant relationship is happening under a microscope. The thrill of the finale, when Andrew finally turns the tables on his creator, comes less from any flawless musical performance than the sight of a dyed-in-the-wool sociopath fully embracing his darkest nature. That’s entertainment.
November 08, 2014
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On leaving the screening I attended, I thought, “It’s not that the movie gets jazz wrong—although it does—it’s that it gets LIFE ON THE PLANET EARTH wrong.” (Richard Brody has written most trenchantly on how it gets jazz wrong.) There’s a lot of dynamic filmmaking on display here, most of it in the service of utter horseshit. First there’s its near-Randroid vision of artistic excellence and non-compromise…
October 24, 2014
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Chazelle is pilfering from Scorsese, but meaningfully, star-makingly. He’s one of a tiny few American directors to come out from under all of that influence and to speak in a new, original language… Its blood is hot; it’s got a manic, coked-up verve. But all of this work about suffering, struggling artists feels more documented than metaphorical.
October 15, 2014
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The movie has no music in its soul—and, for that matter, it has no music in its images. There are ways of filming music that are themselves musical, that conjure a musical feeling above and beyond what’s on the soundtrack, but Chazelle’s images are nothing of the kind.
October 13, 2014
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Whiplash reaches its purest heights and, with its characters, plummets to lows with the dexterity of a virtuoso drum solo, and, after all the preparation and merciless evaluation, finds true catharsis in the release of stage performance.
October 08, 2014
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Imagine," Simmons says, “if Jo Jones hadn’t thrown that cymbal. Then Charlie Parker might never have become the greatest musician of the twentieth century.” “But,” the student replies, articulating the very question that the movie has manipulated us to be asking ourselves. “Isn’t there a line that you shouldn’t cross?” The problem with the screenplay is that by posing its own question so openly it forces itself to provide an answer. But either possible answer to this question is banal.
October 06, 2014
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Teller conveys that tensed, animal plasticity drummers have during play, a mounting sense of rage, and his puppyish looks handle “wounded” like nobody’s business… It is JK Simmons, however, who truly stands out. The tone and delivery of his part do not call for much subtlety, but there is a way in which, beyond the volume of his voice and the delivery of the dialogue, his whole body seems in tune to the film’s rhythm.
October 02, 2014
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The thrill of watching Fletcher and Neyman’s fray unfold is intensified by Chazelle’s attention to the craft and challenge of musicianship. Teller, a drummer for over a decade, does the lion’s share of his character’s playing, and Chazelle captures the astonishing physical ability, pain, and exhaustion that comes from trying to catch up to the likes of Buddy Rich and Max Roach.
September 16, 2014
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Chazelle has a winning conceit in the bond between the self-annihilating hero and his psychopathic mentor, wringing surprising tension out of an improbable magic-realist finale that sees the men hashing out their demonic teacher-student relationship on stage, more for us than for their immediate audience. If one gets the sense that Chazelle hasn’t quite worked out whether Fletcher is an unorthodox teacher or just a bully, it’s ultimately to his film’s credit…
September 03, 2014
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I’d guess you’d have to be a jazz fan to love this portrait of a teenageBuddy Rich obsessive and his savage martinet of a tutor as much as I did; but you’d be hard pushed to find a film with half as much chutzpah and stylistic élan at Cannes. The drumming is thrilling to watch (and the feat of making it so astounding), but it’s an all-round winner of a film…
May 20, 2014
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A leap up the ladder of professionalism [from Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench], Whiplash shows Chazelle in command of every aspect of directing and writing, with a pure and uncom-promised vision of what movies can and should be… The film is indeed a musical, its live jazz core fused with an ambient score by Justin Hurwitz that keeps your pulse rate elevated from beginning to end.
March 05, 2014
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The movie was soon christened “Full Metal Juilliard,” but it’s deeper and richer than its nickname suggests.
January 23, 2014
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Simmons was clearly pushed to recapture the ferocious energy he showed in his days as Vern Schillinger on the HBO series Oz. His performance, part of the film’s wonderful immersion in the world of making music, builds from a steady, compelling drumbeat to a very satisfying crescendo. Beyond that, credit goes to Chazelle for neither soft-pedaling the damage that the instructor inflicts nor dressing up the murkiness of the “win” that teacher and student are fighting for.
January 20, 2014
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The identity this teen chases after is a lonely one, but it’s impeccably on the beat. Real art, the movie suggests, isn’t for those who merely hope to do a “good job” and please themselves. Whiplash scrapes the far edge of crazy passion. It never apologizes. And the flurry of drumming it concludes with—Teller’s solo is staggering—is both a magical cacophony and, obliquely, a door slamming shut.
January 17, 2014
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