Sunday, September 20, 2015

'The Great Gatsby' (2013)

I just saw Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" tonight for the first time (with commercials, on AMC). I'd read F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel too young (in my teens) and didn't quite understand the emotional gravitas and heartbreak. Also as a teen, I saw the crappy '70s version with Redford (and his '70s hair) and Farrow, and the ridiculous ennui (so apropos for the '70s and utterly un-apropos of the Roaring Twenties) and hated it -- and so have rather dismissed everything about "Gatsby" for the past 30 years. 

Luhrmann's version, though, was moving and thought-provoking. I first discovered him via his "Moulin Rouge" in 2001 -- I saw it twice in one week, it was THAT good to me. Since then, I'd lost touch with what he'd been doing artistically.

I do tend to mistrust those who attempt to bring a modern sense to a period piece... "Gatsby" is decidedly of the '20s, and decidedly of Fitzgerald. And Luhrmann had a modern soundtrack to this "Gatsby"... But the soundtrack fit in almost seamlessly at Jay Gatsby's decadent parties. Yes, you know it's not "period music," but the "feel," the "mood," is almost exactly right.

And the editing also fit in perfectly. (For example, when the rich characters left their glowing world of West Egg to venture into the more working-class Queens for a night, the Queens World turned to black-and-white, based purely on the characters' perceptions -- a brilliant touch.)

For the first time, after watching Luhrmann's version of "Gatsby," I actually GOT the utter hard-core reality/sadness of what Fitzgerald had been saying... Daisy's (Zelda Fitzgerald's) emotional weakness was horrifying, but honest. Nick Carroway's (Scott Fitzgerald's) breakdown in the face of witnessing this, and his understanding of Jay Gatsby's (Scott Fitzgerald's ID) desires, equally so. The movie made me understand the book and the author more -- that makes it a great movie to me.

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