Damien Chazelle is a master at profound analysis of the essentials of human ambition – the way it comes from a place of vulnerability, and at the same time, of Prometean defiance, an almost inexplicable resilience.
Each one of his films uses this fulcrum to catapult a character into the strange stratosphere of this fatefully inter-connected existence we inhabit – the hero fighting for an achievement, as if fighting for oxygen, in the case of First Man, almost literally so.
Ryan Gosling is Neil Armstrong, the man on the Moon, a human enigma, embarking towards a celestial enigma, his motivation of enduring the long road beyond and back obscured by a non-verbality that is devastating in its emotional eloquence.
Elegantly cutting through the Cold War politics, slippery metaphors on masculinity, the now archaic technologies yet still very raw societal injustices, an actual insane audacity of the venture building up as monumental ego trip of a nation – this is a story that finds its heart in a silence, mystery of the inner cosmos. There are things we do because we must. The micro and the macro are aligned.
And all the apt or distorted perceptions of the few and the many are swept down the dusty Texas road, like tumbleweed, when the rocket engines blaze, finally, shambolically, majestically, after an ordeal of a borderline suicidal quest to be good enough to go.
And then, come back.
To all the pain that is still present and alive, but somehow transmuted, graspable, of human rather than mythic proportions.