The (Really) Great Gatsby
It’s the closest thing we have to magic isn’t it, making films?
Projecting an idea, a vision onto a screen, from something someone once dreamt up. And in 3D no less, Baz Lurhmann wanted to invite people into the parties and 2D just wasn’t enough for him. Bring a whisky and you can hip and hop to the soundtrack for yourself. It’s loud, it’s BIG, it’s wonderful. Baz doesn’t hold back, he doesn’t have to. When asked if he literally ‘dreams’ this stuff up – he replied: no. He doesn’t sleep much, you see.
In a recent interview, he describes how he would board a train in Siberia to research and reflect on the novel The Great Gatsby and wanted to reveal the story as how it would be “in our time”. His mission was to create a movie with the old essence of the book but with modern influences. People keep asking him how does the film compare to the Robert Redford version? He deviates but only so he can prove his point: well what’s your favourite version of Hamlet? He answers. Is it Laurence Olivier’s version or the kid in the London theatre you saw the other night? His point is, there is no ‘one’ version or ‘best’ version, it’s a matter of a opinion, and personal preference. Timelessness needs to be timely after all.
I guess that’s what makes pieces of literature so iconic and treasured, the way they can be interpreted and reinterpreted, told and retold. For example my two favourite versions of Much Ado About Nothing is the Kenneth Branagh/Emma Thompson TV version but also a weird and wacky stage show I saw in Stratford at the Swan theatre set in 1960’s Cuba with a topless Claudio puffing on a big old cigar. Both tell the story brilliantly. One version of a Shakespeare play would be like taking one bite out of a chocolate bar. Good, but not nearly enough.
This is what I love. Especially about Luhrmann’s version of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. The story has not changed, but what Baz Luhrmann does is he bring old classics back round to being modern again. After all when Fitzgerald wrote the book it was the height of modern to his audiences: the Wall St Journal, the fashion, the cigarette holders, the trendy jazz. So Baz has just moved the needle on it slightly, to being what the critics have cringingly described as being ‘down with the kids’. If you want classic cinema, then re-watch the old classic movie. But anyone that has slated this film I wonder if they are missing the point: it’s a story retold with a modern style. It makes you feel something, and I think the only way you can truly feel something deep down is if you relate to it on some level. He didn’t just make this for the millennials, it’s for everyone. Those flamboyant outfits make everyone nostalgic even though we may never have experienced the era. But it was a time where the world was going through big change: America was on its way to being a superpower and the evolution of fashion was the first beginnings of what it is today. To a 2013 audience, we can relate to the Hollywood actors, the hip hop influence, the shined up cars, the cocktail glasses, the pool. It’s like a stylised Marbella, but more Tiffany’s, less TOWIE.
The cast were epic. It’s hard sometimes when you are attached to a book to accept the on-screen counterparts. Toby Maguire was utterly believable: the more naive but reflective character, and watching through his eyes you feel like you are the third wheel, looking in on the lives of the others, just like him. Carey Mulligan has a face that often seems to be in the wrong era, and perfectly suited for the incredible glitz and glamour. She also has a great face for looking anxious and pretty at the same time which is classic Daisy (and quite difficult I can imagine). And Leo.. well it’s Leo. He can do no wrong. Since Titanic he has continuing to sail (mind the pun) through award ceremonies and black tie events as what Baz describes “one of the greatest actors of all time”. Having worked with Baz for almost two decades since the amazing Romeo & Juliet you can just tell there is chemistry behind the making of the film which definitely adds a big something.
And plus, having Jay Z as the executive producer? Everything about this collaboration just makes complete sense. The mystery of Gatsby mirrors the mystery and intrigue of many of the modern day celebrities and the extravagance that goes on behind it. Baz brought it back. And I for one am now obsessed. My shopping list is as follows: fur stole, Jay Z album, jewelled headpiece and a full-size poster of Joel Edgerton. ENJOY.
Side note: I have realised over time that my favourite films involve typewriters. I will soon make a list.
p.s It’s late and I’m rambling, but it was truly magnificent and I think Baz Luhrmann is an absolute genius. Anyone that is not afraid to break boundaries has my vote.
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