News culture This film with a colossal budget of 80 million dollars was a resounding flop at the box office… except in France
Published on 05/18/2023 at 21:50
Babylon, the new film by Damien Chazelle, was released at the very beginning of the year and clearly did not have the expected success around the world. Nevertheless, France gave him a fine career in cinema, surprising the director himself.
The pure party
Damien Chazelle is not an illustrious stranger in the cinematographic landscape. With Whiplash, the Franco-American director hit hard: this poignant and ultra-stylized story of a jazz drummer and his teacher (played by the very good Miles Teller and JK Simmons respectively) is quite simply one of the best films of the last decade and one would not know that advise you too well.
Enough to definitively launch the career of the director, who subsequently gave birth to La La Land and First Man in 2016 and 2018. In early 2023, iHowever, he came back in force with Babylon, an exacerbated feature film, sometimes irreverent but always visually and aurally sublime, about the beginnings of the Hollywood industry and talkies.
A fable about partying and its excesses, about the bombast of the 1920s and the rise of a cult titan: slick imagery, on-point choreography, five-star cast (Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Tobey Maguire…) and budget 80 million dollars (excluding marketing) were thus on the program for a captivating result. Except… the sauce didn’t take, commercially speaking.
It’s a fact, difficult to digest for Damien Chazelle as for the producers of Paramount: Babylon was a severe flop at the worldwide box office with around $63.4 million, its break-even point being estimated at… $230 million according to Deadline. In the United States in particular, the public did not respond.
But in France, it’s a big yes, against all odds! With 1.5 million tickets sold, Babylon is currently the eighth biggest hit of 2023 in France. And it was on the occasion of the release of the film on Blu-Ray that Damien Chazelle spoke with Canal+ about this national success which he did not particularly expect:
It’s part of the adventure of any film. You never know exactly what will happen. It was quite fascinating, even on a sociological level, to see how different countries reacted differently to the film, while it is the same film.
Success in France, in fact, is a bit of a mystery, I’m not exactly sure how it happens. Of course for me, being someone who has family in France, it gave me a lot of joy to find that the film was doing well there and that the French were there for the film. It’s true that it was a bit brilliant, it was a dream.
Speaking of dreams, Damien Chazelle would like to direct a 100% French film. Maybe we’ll have some news soon.