Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I like excess but...

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby didn't work for me. What's missing is that push/pull of fascination and loathing that is so much part of the original. There are moments when I think Luhrmann gets it - Nick's first visit to the Buchanan's house which shows such a vast expanse of green, bits of the party at Myrtle's New York appartment, and Tom Buchanan sneeringly walking through the party he and Daisy attend before disappearing with an actor. But generally the critique of the sheer, overwhelming frivolity of the times was pushed underground so the sheer, overwhelming frivolity could be a canvas for Luhrmann's fast-moving spectacle.

There were moments I thought more was going to work, for example, Nick walking in to the room where Daisy and Jordan are bouyed up on the sofa - but Luhrmann pushed it unecessarily into slapstick. The pacing throughout is wrong. It's as though Luhrmann has forgotten the hangover which necessarily follows the frenetic partying. One of the problems with this is that Fitzgerald's careful and nuanced foreshadowings of tragedy and violence get lost in the general mayhem.

Leonardo DiCaprio did a great job as Gatsby - he had presence, a certain vulnerability and a lot of tense power. When he smiled, I believed Nick Carraway, 'It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may have come across four or five times in life.' Joel Edgerton was good as Tom Buchanan - even his eyes, glittering and small, seemed somehow privileged. But Carey Mulligan's character was too vulnerable. I had no real sense of the 'excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget, a singing compulsion...' (I do seem to remember Mia Farrow pulling that off in the 1974 version - it was a way she had of looking sideways, perhaps? Or maybe I've just made that up? It was years ago!)

Nonetheless, seeing The Great Gatsby at a cinema on the Champs Elysees forever memorable!

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