[Critical] Whiplash

Po make his second feature film (presented first in the form of a short film in 2013), Damien Chazelle is a part of his own experience as a jazz drummer when he was in the conservatory. It puts in scene his relationship with his teacher is extremely demanding, his fear of failure, the question of failure and all the efforts to endure in order to achieve excellence. With Whiplash (whiplash) it makes the report a master/student a real duel, a battle field where the student undergoes the physical and moral violence of her teacher, with a vision of perfection to be attained by suffering. A film so surprising that extreme.

Andrew (Miles Teller), 19 years old, dreams of becoming one of the best jazz drummers of his generation. But the competition is fierce at the conservatory in Manhattan where he trains hard. It has the aim of integrating the flagship orchestras led by Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), professor fierce and intractable. When the cue finally, Andrew starts, under his direction, in the pursuit of excellence…

First shot : the camera moves ahead in a dark hallway. At the bottom, framed by the contours of the door, a boy plays the drums. The camera continues its progression towards the drummer as a hunter in the face of his prey. He is Terence Fletcher, one of the teachers at the conservatory in Manhattan. Its appearance cut to Andrew, the young drummer, in his tracks. When a confrontation between the two main protagonists of the film takes place. Andrew, under the request and the gaze of Terence, who manipulates him already, starts to play. Editing in rhythm, alternation of plans, almost facing the camera on each of the two protagonists, a rapidity and an energy that creates a field/counter field. The soaring music stops abruptly, Terence Fletcher just left the room. It doesn’t take long to Whiplash to take the viewer in a wave of powerful and fierce. In just a few minutes extemporaneous, the databases come to be asked.

For his film Damien Chazelle treats with a stage perfectly suited to his subject. Whiplash follows the journey of Andrew and his dream is to become the best jazz drummer of his generation. The director uses simple processes such as a slight against-dive on Terence, which insists on the dominance of the latter over Andrew. It is in diving, sitting on his seat, battery, and subjected to situations of confinement (frame of the first scene, the rounded shape of his instrument). Because despite what that might suggest the scene introducing Andrew to start at the lowest level. He served as drummer replacing, often limited to having to turn a page of the owner of the orchestra of the first year. When Terence Fletcher, the cue and join up with his orchestra he is far from having earned its place. Whiplash develops a speech surprising, where only the hard work can go beyond the excellence. Several times the example of the saxophonist deemed to Charlie Parker is quoted : after a humiliation he worked as hard before becoming one of the greatest saxophonists in jazz history.

Whiplash imposes itself clearly as one of the best films made about the music”

The humiliation seems to be a tool of motivation adequate. It is in any case what was decided to apply Terence Fletcher with his students. J. K. Simmons, who brilliantly performs, is a professor tyrannical, vicious, and insulting. Fletcher pushes his students to the limit, to the point of exhaustion, or worse. And this is what is really fascinating in the film. Because no student wants to give up. They are themselves, a part of madness (the responsibility ?) since they are willing to endure the worst atrocities of their teacher. The latter takes the opportunity and shows two faces. Sometimes friendly and attentive, he does not manipulate to be able to use the weaknesses of Andrew, always with the aim of bringing to transcend themselves. The heavy atmosphere is spread up to the viewer who chokes as much as Andrew. An effect produced by the scale of the plan (the amount of close-ups), the sets overall (a large part of the film takes place during rehearsals at one of the studios of the school), and the dark colors and boiseuses (black, brown, pale yellow).

In the face of J. K. Simmons there are Miles Teller, also amazing and metamorphosed. The young actor is changing his character through his body. Often curved, it is contained and folds back on itself. The pain, physical and moral, is visible on his face, that bears scars, and his hands in blood. Of course, it will have to wait until the last sequence to see the duel between the two protagonists take place. A last sequence is unleashed that leaves you speechless. It is also echoed in the first scene. While Andrew plays, Terrence served as a conductor. Now the field/counter field is no longer marked by cuts. The set is bound by a panning movement of the camera that passes from one character to another. Like a boxing match each door blows in its own way. The tension is at its peak while we wonder if one of the two will eventually crack. Whiplash turns into an action movie. The last part of the film acts as a final battle with a lot of twists and turns and surprises. The everything, is always rhythmic and accompanied by music, rousing and virtuoso, jazz compositions, with which the staging of Chazelle hold perfectly.

Whiplash is clear as one of the best films made about the music. Damien Chazelle manages to take us on a field far from being the most affordable. Jazz is not the style of music the most popular. It makes it perfectly accessible with titles such as Whiplash Hank Levy, composer especially for the big bands of Stan Kenton and Don Ellis, and Caravan , composed by Juan Tizol and made famous with a variety of interpretations by the Duke Ellington”s Orchestra. The director goes so far as to make us vibrate on that his helter-skelter perfectly mastered.

Of course Whiplash evokes Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987). Fletcher recalled in her attitude, and directing the sergeant-instructor Hartman (Lee Ermey) and the humiliation that he subjected it to a section of Marines during the Vietnam war. As in the masterpiece of Kubrick, there is the indignation at the attitude of those in power. But by agreeing to submit to him, students do not receive for all our compassion. Damien Chazelle is not so much a glorification of this method, exemplified by the rebellion of Andrew who discards the yoke of his teacher, and the future still undetermined.

The other outputs of the 24 December




Original title : Whiplash

Achievement : Damien Chazelle

Screenplay : Damien Chazelle

Main actors : Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, Melissa Benoist

Country of origin : U. S. A.

Released : December 24, 2014

Duration : 1h45min

Distributor : Ad Vitam

Synopsis : Andrew, 19, dreams of becoming one of the best jazz drummers of his generation. But the competition is fierce at the conservatory in Manhattan where he trains hard. It has the aim of integrating the flagship orchestras led by Terence Fletcher, a professor fierce and intractable. When the cue finally, Andrew starts, under his direction, in the pursuit of excellence…

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