“La La Land” is one of the most beautiful films in recent memory. Sure it has some great songs too, “Another Day Of Sun” among them, but as a piece of visual art, “La La Land” is nothing short of extraordinary.
The whole movie is clever, achingly beautiful, poignant and heartfelt from start to finish, with large chunks shot in long, continuous takes which I can only imagine must have been a nightmare for actors, dancers and directors alike.
But I’m glad they persevered. The end product is certainly worth it.
The first time I saw the opening sequence, performed to the song “Another Day Of Sun”, I was captivated. The song itself is wonderful, and the choreography spectacular.
As with most of “La La Land”, the music for “Another Day Of Sun” was by Justin Hurwitz and the lyrics were by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who would later go on to enjoy even greater success with the equally brilliant, if not quite so beautifully shot, “The Greatest Showman”.
“City Of Stars” is the song most people remember from “La La Land”, which is reasonable enough — it’s a great song in its own right and it did win an Oscar for Hurwitz, Pasek and Paul, after all. So I don’t blame you if that’s the first “La La Land” song that comes to mind.
But for me “Another Day Of Sun” nudges just in front of “City Of Stars” as the standout song of the movie. I love it slightly more because, as well as being an equally tremendous song, the choreography which accompanies “Another Day Of Sun” is truly spectacular. It’s a singularly joyous tune which never fails to put a smile on my face.
Mandy Moore was in charge of choreography for “La La Land” and, my goodness, she did an exceptional job throughout, setting the standard just about as high as it’s possible to get right out the starting blocks with the opening routine which accompanies “Another Day Of Sun”.
We see a line of cars stuck in traffic on an LA freeway. The camera moves slowly along the waiting line and a bit of whatever happens to be on the radio inside each car leaks out through their open windows as the camera passes…until we get to the car with dancer Reshma Gajjar. There we pick up the intro for “Another Day Of Sun”.
The song’s performance is credited to the La La Land Cast, but the lush and smooth opening vocal comes from Angela Parrish. Reshma Gajjar is only miming…although I’m guessing she is probably a better dancer than Angela Parrish, so I’m not disrespecting the contribution of either of them to one of the most perfect movie scenes in recent years.
In no time, though, we’re into real old-style Hollywood musical territory, with a full orchestra and chorus piling in for a truly delightful musical treat. The standard of orchestration is every bit as good as the composition and choreography with this number. If you listen to it through even halfway-decent headphones, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The lyrics for “Another Day Of Sun” tells the well-trodden story of a young woman who heads for LA from somewhere in the Mid-West, with hope in her heart and dreams of stardom in her pockets…
I think about that day
I left him at the Greyhound station
West of Santa Fe
We were seventeen
But he was sweet and it was true
Still I did what I had to do
’Cause I just knew
Sometimes, in life, you get an itch you’ve just got to scratch. And when you’re young, it’s a lot easier upping sticks to try your hand at stardom than it is when you’ve got kids and a mortgage to think about.
Even if you’re leaving behind someone sweet and true, if it’s something you’ve got to do, maybe seventeen is about as good a time as any to roll that dice.
You either get it out your system early enough to pick up your life without having missed too much of the more traditional growing up experiences, or you become a member of the “one in a million” club and somehow stumble through the door to a life of fame and fortune.
When I say “stumble through”, I don’t for a moment mean the process is pure luck. You’ve got to have immense talent to even get near the fringes of stardom, but for every leading actor in a Hollywood movie, there are tens of thousands of other actors who could have been chosen instead, most of them at least equally technically competent.
No matter how talented you are, the gods of fortune have to be smiling on you when you’re trying to become a star.
Sometimes people stay in the game too long and can’t bring themselves to accept something they dreamed of their whole life just isn’t going to happen for them.
That’s when bitterness and disappointment take hold, which is never good for anyone’s decision-making abilities. Too many unwise decisions, taken in desperation, ruin too many lives in those situations…
A Technicolor world made out of music and machine
It called me to be on that screen
And live inside each scene
Without a nickel to my name
Hopped a bus, here I came
Could be brave or just insane
We’ll have to see
Statistically, “insane” turns out to be the correct answer more often than not. But the rewards for success are so great that people keep coming to try their luck anyway. Thousands of people turn up at LA’s bus stations, airports and freeway off-ramps every day with a dream in their heart and a talent they want to share with the world.
It’s easy to mock, but I’m not mocking anyone for doing what they believe in.
However poor the odds might be for the brave souls who hop on a bus to LA hoping to become movie stars, they’re a lot better than the odds are for people who stay where they are, in a small town somewhere, living their lives pretty much as their parents and grandparents did.
I’ve got a definite soft spot for the world’s starry-eyed optimists, those among us who are brave enough and determined enough to even give stardom a shot. They’re a lot braver than me, that’s for sure.
But if there’s one section of “Another Day Of Sun” that encapsulates the whole experience in just a handful of words, it’s this wonderful piece of writing from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul…
I hear them every day
The rhythms in the canyons
That’ll never fade away
The ballads in the bar-rooms
Left by those who came before
They say “you gotta want it more”
So I bang on every door
And even when the answer’s “no”
Or when my money’s running low
The dusty mic and neon glow
Are all I need
Sometimes the professional classes make fun of people who are “struggling actors” (or singers, or dancers, or painters, or writers, or any other artistic profession). But that misses the point.
The “smart” people set out to accumulate things. They’re forever chasing the bigger house, the bigger car, the better job. They never find happiness because they’re always looking for something more than they have now.
But it’s different for actors, singers and other artists. Of course they would like to be wealthy, free of money worries and not have to wonder where the next meal is coming from…wouldn’t we all?
However they have found a contentment in practicing their talents, and a sense of peace which eludes nearly everyone else on the planet.
When all you need for happiness is an old microphone and a spotlight, it’s much easier to find he happiness you seek. Your needs might be modest and few, but you get to enjoy them every day.
How many bankers, lawyers and accountants get to achieve that? I’m guessing not many.
So who’s crazy now…the people who stayed in their small town and got a “proper job” or the people who get to do the only thing they ever wanted to do in life every day? Even if they never find the pot of gold at the end of their rainbow, they get to experience more joy in their life than most of the rest of us.
So I salute them all and wish them well.
And one side effect of all those people setting out on this path is that we get to enjoy achingly beautiful films like “La La Land” with, in “Another Day Of Sun” at least, a cast of hundreds of talented people.
It’s the little details in this movie that mean so much. If you look into the background of the dance routine for “Another Day Of Sun” there’s so much going on, and the attention to detail is phenomenal.
Now and again you’ll spot a flash of colour or shift in the shadows deep in the background which means the director and choreographer took the trouble to make sure someone who is so far away you can barely tell anything’s there until a tiny, momentary flash of colour catches your eye. Now you see it’s a human being dancing away in perfect unison with the people in the foreground the best part of a mile away.
The whole film is full of touches like this. Damien Chazelle, the director for “La La Land” and Mandy Moore, its choreographer, created a work of great beauty throughout.
Although I’m on my umpteenth viewing, I can’t watch the film without spotting yet another delightful detail I hadn’t noticed before. It’s a film which connects with somewhere deep in my soul.
If you’re not familiar with it, I strongly recommend you give “La La Land” a try. But in the meantime, here’s how the film starts. I can’t watch this without a broad smile on my face because this sequence is so beautiful and clever, with excellent choreography from Mandy Moore, skilful direction from Damien Chazelle and, of course, a wonderful song from Justin Horwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.
It’s “Another Day Of Sun”…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/5kRBzRZmZTXVg8okC7SJFZ