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Film Reviews

Diving into the 'A Star is Born' franchise

In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin mentions how film as a medium in itself fails to represent “the aura” of a work of art that can be considered unique as it can only be encountered through the reproduction of its process.

This is the very aura that we as an audience communicate with when it comes to films or any other art forms, for that matter. In this article, we discuss what made Bradley Cooper’s version of A Star is Born, stand out.

When was A Star is Born?

Did you know that the 2018 version was the film’s fourth readaptation? Yes, you read it right. The plot of the film was first seen in ‘What Price Hollywood’ produced in the year 1932. Then, it was first readapted and released under the franchise A Star is Born in 1937, then in 1954, 1976, and finally in 2018, the one we all know of. 

What fascinates me when it comes to remakes of this manner is how a plot with similar themes can be studied based on the creative trajectory of its development. Not only do we get to know more about different Hollywood eras, but we also learn of the social context that it was based. Like the 1954 version, the film was made into a tragedy musical. It was the golden era of musicals in Hollywood. Check out the official trailer for it here!

However, director George Cukor took it further by creating a tragedy which was very unlike musicals back in the day. Or when auteurs in the 1976 version decided to make the protagonists rockstars instead of country musicians. The protagonists played the role of struggling artists such as Jim Morrison and more from back in the day.

How Barbra Streisand, in the 1976 version, put in a commendable performance highlighting in her role that it was truly the era of women. The film reflected the birth of feminism in the 70s and the blooming of rock as a genre. As I said, a mirror of society through these time capsules we call films. Find the trailer for this one here!

Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star is Born

Now, what made A Star is Born 2018 so different from the others that it received a palpable amount of appreciation? Directed and produced by Bradley Cooper, who also plays Jackson Maine (a country rockstar), this film took off as it addressed the theme of the film differently. The theme includes struggle, drug abuse, mental health issues, and the toxicity of Hollywood as an industry.

The star machine of an industry shines bright during the film’s exposition, but the tones and the mise-en-scene take darker turns as the plot begins to highlight the industry’s darker sides. Alongside him is the shining bright Lady Gaga playing Ally Maine. 

Cooper uses a cinema verite style of directing that is highlighting the more regular spaces in which we conduct our daily lives. Like when they met in a parking lot and bonded over their passion for music. He made the audience relate to the story of Ally and Jackson by emphasising that it could be you or me instead of them on screen today. Jack as a character was also given more context, unlike its previous versions, which presented him as an ignorant man with abuse problems.

Why is A Star is Born 2018 different?

2018’s Jackson was more sensible and genuine when it came to expressing his struggles with alcohol abuse and the general struggle to remain in the industry and truly do what he loved. Unlike the characters who played the role of a fading star who came off as more manipulative and prudish for the audience’s lack of context or relatable struggle. We can also see that as Jack encourages Ally to find her own voice amidst the pressures of stardom. 

Onscreen struggles of the fading artist Jackson resonated deeply with the debutant director’s very own past struggles with abuse. So in a way, he could provide us with authentic representations of struggle. However, Ally does seem less assertive than the 1976 version of herself, which does tell us a thing or two about the role of female celebrities in the flashy industry. This also brings up the continued struggles of female artists in contemporary Hollywood. 

From beautiful colour landscapes of red and blue and the camera remaining longer on close-ups to really focus on what is going on within the characters made this a very visually appealing and reflective film. Reflective as Jackson does not play the role of a hero but an anti-hero. One who is not necessarily evil but is also not a perfect lead.

Similar to Ally, who struggles to remain true to her identity as an artist. With these layers of intersectional complexities with the characters, the audience finds themselves relating to and rooting for them. If you have not watched this yet, do not miss out on a beautiful representation of love, loss, and struggle that we have all been through at some point. Check out the trailer here!