Dale Robinette
Joe McGovern
October 28, 2016 AT 09:49 PM EDT

Romance doesn’t seem real without a little touch of the blues. For proof, just look — and stare and gape — at the magical new image from the season’s most dazzling movie experience. La La Land stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as struggling Los Angeles artists in love (she’s an actress; he’s a jazz pianist), and like so many couples from Hollywood fables of yore, when they lose the words to speak, they sing. (Listen to the movie’s transporting theme song, “City of Stars,” sung by Gosling, here.)

“This shot gets at what I love about musicals,” says director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) of his lead characters holding hands in front of a glistening painting of Paris’ river Seine. “Musicals allow you to forgo logic in favor of emotion and beauty — and that’s what we hoped to do.”

Stone agrees. “I had to play someone whose heart was exploding in this scene,” she says, “and it was so easy. I walked onto this set, with the clock and leaves and the blue glitter, and I was just in a state of wonder.”

Dale Robinette

And though the film is set entirely in Los Angeles, Chazelle loved this images autumnal feel. “I adore the look of fall leaves in either the East Coast of the United States or in a European city street. Plus the river reminds me of An American in Paris, when Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron dance by the Seine. And the clock, set to midnight, reminded me of a Rene Clair short film called Paris Qui Dort, where a magician casts a spell and the entire city freezes. So it’s a combination of a bunch of things I love crammed into one image.”

For more from our Holiday Movie Preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here – and subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

La La Land opens in theaters — and not a moment too soon — on Dec. 9. Check out an interview above from the Toronto Film Festival with Chazelle, Stone, and Gosling on what they were each most worried about while making the film. And don’t forget to breathe.

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