The Great Gatsby

May 13, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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Whether or not you will like Baz Luhrmann’s take on “The Great Gatsby” can probably be determined by your opinion of a thirty second scene: the moment we first lay eyes on Gatsby’s.  That scene is the movie at it’s core; did you find it to be ridiculously silly or glorious excess?  Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge,” “Romeo + Juliet”) is a bit of a master of excess and it is on fine display here.  The film is so saturated in colors and lights and movement and sound that the story beneath all of that is almost lost.  Everything is stunning in Luhrmann’s 1929; even suffering is gorgeously rendered.  This is not to be dismissive at all.  Luhrmanh is a visual master and I think he is in great form here.  He has every visual detail just right, from the crazy scarlet bordello feel of the mistress’s apartment to the stunning way that everything Gatsby wears flatters him beautifully (gold to match his hair, blue to match his eyes, creams, tans and soft pinks to match his complexion).  For somebody as visual as I am, every scene was a treat to watch.  And Luhrmann fills them all with heavy meaning, the most effective of which was the eye doctor’s billboard (beautifully mimicking the famous book cover).  The problem is that the images are so overwhelming it is hard for the power of the story itself to rise above the din.  The images of excess and wealthy self-involvement, oblivious to growing stratification and an impending collapse, are all very resonant today.  But it is the images, not the story, that resonate.  Lost is the power of Fitzgerald’s work.  We hear it in brief snippets of his language but we can’t really see it in the characters because they are just props in the backdrop.  Luhrmann uses Fitzgerald’s work as the inspiration for a visual allegory of our times.  It’s beautiful and, at times, moving but it isn’t Fitzgerald’s “Gatsby.”  Perhaps, if you want to make that film, ironically, you may need to make it a contemporary story of a man who sell drugs to build an empire to impress the woman he loves.  Then maybe the characters, their plight, their humanness will resonate with us.  In this film, they were all just beautiful splashes of color on a much larger canvas.

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