Skip to main content

Baz Luhrmann's GATSBY - See The Green Light



Above: The Green Light trailer, courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.


I cannot WAIT to see Baz Luhrmann's film of F Scott Fitzgerald's unforgettably heartbreaking novel, The Great Gatsby (originally published on April 10, 1925) - and the mixed reviews it is so far receiving mean nothing to me at all.

I love the trailers, I love the music, I love the artists involved (not least the wondrous Lana Del Rey, who seems perfectly suited to this), I love the cast (Tobey Maguire's reflective angst suggests the perfect Nick; Leo DiCaprio's beauty and impenetrability are equally well-suited to Gatsby), I love the idea of capturing what it feels like to "be" in the 1920s, rather than watch a movie about the decade - and I love Baz Luhrmann's work.

Personally, I think Gatsby is probably unfilmable, whatever that means. The book is so iconic, so much "The Great American Novel" - but more importantly so subtle and complex and wistful and romantic (in all the truest senses of the word) - that you cannot capture the delicacy of reading it: the moments of pause as you turn a page; the astonishment at echoes (as with the waste land surrounding the eyes of Dr T J Eckleburg) of truly radical literature of the period, such as T S Eliot's form-bending poetry; the highly accomplished plotting that disappears behind the glitz of the parties and of the mystery of Gatsby himself (I believe Gatsby is the first work of literature to involve a death by automobile, but I may be wrong); the sheer, breathtaking power of the prose (and its social commentary and criticism), as evidenced in this description of Tom and Daisy, which has stayed with me since I first read the book, aged 17, in England, long before I ever visited America (but the book made me want to):

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..."

(I would trade a lot just to have written the phrase, "vast carelessness," in that context.)




Above: The Jack White/U2 Love Is Blindness trailer.


Judging by the trailers, Baz Luhrmann has made a spectacular, exciting, anachronistic (in terms of its music score) 3D mashup of Gatsby, which is precisely what I want. I saw the 1974 Robert Redford-Mia Farrow Gatsby, adapted by Francis Ford Coppola (I even visited Pinewood Studios in England while it was shooting, and got to meet the lovely Ms Farrow), and found it a rather soulless affair. I'm ready for GATSBY - THE GRAPHIC NOVEL.

Even trying to choose a favorite between the many trailers is a challenge: Jack White's rendering of U2's song Love Is Blindness (originally written for Nina Simone, but kept instead for U2's album, Achtung Baby) is so powerful - but the Green Light trailer, with both the I Can See The Green Light song and the totally iconic image from the book, wins out in terms of capturing the essence of what Gatsby is about.

I love the dream, the decadence is par for the course (it masks a pretty hard-nosed, ingenious yet at the same time pulpy narrative), but what I love most about the novel - and maybe the film, if it has anything of the hip-hop heart of Romeo + Juliet - is simply the fact that it exists: that since I was 17 years old and first read it, it has shaped so many ideas in my heart and mind - of the transience of all things (perhaps it's partly why I became a Buddhist); of the power and ultimate emptiness of desire; of the cruelty that money can create; of the power of dreams and illusions to forge our life's narrative; of the blank, beautiful, chaotic truth that lies beneath us all.



The original cover art for the novel by Francis Cugat.

If you want to know more about the fascinating history of the novel, Wikipedia's excellent entry includes details of the cover art by Francis Cugat - completed before the novel, and so powerful that Fitzgerald wrote elements of it into the book (although the eyes in the artwork also draw on some of the novel's most powerful imagery) - and of the indecision Fitzgerald had over the book's title, vacillating between possibilities such as Trimalchio in West Egg and Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires.

If you want true sensory overload before you see Baz Luhrmann's Gatsby in 3D, just open up a few tabs in your browser, pick out a few different trailers to Luhrmann's Gatsby - and play them all at once, with the volume turned WAY UP!



Comments

  1. Well now I'm really looking forward to it too. I hadn't really wanted to see it until I read your piece and watched the trailers. The Redford version was very 70s and felt too much of that period - too Biba-styled - too post-60s ennui - and I'd always felt the book to be, as you say, a minimalist, poetic piece of imagining - much more TS Eliot and 'unfilmable' to ever be a Hollywood movie.
    Now it seems that Luhrmann's film might be an entirely appropriate Studio 54/Bonfire of The Vanities/Some Girls take on "they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness" - and perhaps a take on our New Depression post 2006 economic crisis.
    What one doesn't get from the trailers is how Nick's observer role plays in this adaptation (and the Redford film seemed to have that distanced feel to evoke the Nick storyteller pov) - the energy of the trailers suggests that Luhrmann might even have written out his point of view - as though to say, well, the book is the way Nick saw events in reflection but what I'm going to show you is what I think Nick was observing, and then you go back to the book and see if you agree. Which to me is a very exciting approach to the adaptation of the book - or indeed any book. Almost, (and maybe stretching a point) but referring back to a movie adaptation you and I have discussed before, as Altman did with The Long Goodbye.
    Whatever, but thank you for "turning me on" to this upcoming movie, and one I'm now really looking forward to.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As if to emphasize my point, I see today that ...http://thirdmanrecords.com/news/view/the-great-gatsby-gold-and-platinum-limited-edition-metallized-record-set

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Please note that for reasons I have not been able to solve yet, I have enormous difficulty posting replies to comments - so I apologize if you ask a question or just make some wonderful remarks and I am not able to respond. I am working on this, because it is very frustrating, but apparently it involves rewriting some of the code of the template! So do not hold your breath...

Thank you for taking the time to comment, and for reading my blog - Alexander

Popular posts from this blog

The High Tower Apartments and The Long Goodbye

This beautiful apartment complex in Los Angeles is called the Hightower or High Tower Complex (the High Tower name refers to the central elevator, I believe), and was designed in 1935-1936 by architect Carl Kay - and made famous in 1973 by my favorite film, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (see Why I Love Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye).


Although Altman used the building as Philip Marlowe's apartment in his somewhat post-modern Long Goodbye (the film plays with references to Old Hollywood and opens and closes with the song, Hooray For Hollywood), the building has another direct connection to Raymond Chandler.


It was apparently the inspiration for Chandler in his book, The High Window (the first Chandler novel I ever read), in which Chandler describes the residence of Philip Marlowe as being on the cliffs above High Tower Drive in a building with a fancy elevator tower. (Thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians Southern California Chapter webpage for that.) 


This ph…

From Dawn to Sunset on the Beach - Pelicans, Whales and Memories of my Father

This post about my father and the ocean is very important to me right now. It was written when we first moved to Santa Cruz, which we insisted on calling Aldabra because it is so magical...
From Dawn to Sunset on the Beach - Pelicans, Whales and Memories of my Father
Living and writing by the ocean - in a spot we like to call Aldabra (which in reality is a remote and very beautiful atoll in the Indian Ocean) - the beach figures large in my thoughts and daily routine.

Usually I wake early, and on occasion I walk at dawn through the waves, past the occasional fisherperson, enjoying the darkness slowly transforming into light, the spray of the breakers, the pull of the tide around my feet, the constant barking of the sea lions, the damp of the ocean mist - and the sight of the sun breaking over the horizon to the east.






Recently, a few days before what would have been his birthday, I thought of my father as I trod the beach at dawn. He came from a tiny Scottish fishing village, Rosehearty, se…

Andrew Hale and Sade

On Thursday evening, we saw our longtime friend Andrew Hale perform with Sade at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, in one of the most beautifully conceived and produced concert performances I have ever seen.

Sade is a rare musician, in that she and the band only write, record and tour every eight to ten years, so that in a very real sense you can measure your life by her.

The band's music is always fresh and always newly conceived - for their previous album, Lovers Rock, they stripped everything down musically to a minimalist sound and banished the saxophone that had been so much a part of Sade's heavily soul- and jazz-influenced style.


The latest album, Soldier of Love, released in 2010, is one of the most tender, moving collections of songs yet, from the astonishingly beautiful Morning Bird, which features exquisite keyboards from Andrew, to the soulful, retro, return-of-the-sax melodies of In Another Time, and the deeply touching, reggae-influenced charm of Babyfather - a partic…