Friday, April 11, 2014

I Finally Watched 30 Minutes of Gatsby and That Was Enough For Me

A view from above. One of Baz's (excuse me but actually, it's one of Busby Berkeley signature shots that he invented back in the 30's that Baz ripped off, but you know...) Don't choke on all that glitter.
Baz Luhrmann bless him, seems to believe that we as humans sitting in a darkened theater are so dulled and thick that they need to be assaulted by colors, music, and camera tricks to create such a high level of visual stimulus so that nothing competes. But what he seems to misunderstand is that when there's already an important, nay...iconic story, already articulated, which every movie-goer has by this time read or has had to read or are at least aware of you have to tread lightly and respect the original material. We get all of the parallels, symbolism, and themes attached to the story of Jay Gatsby even if we haven't read F. Scott Fitzgerald's American opus published back in the 20's about the disillusionment of a culture built on fame, money, and decadence, set in the sparkly aura of The Jazz Age.

Not for a minute did I believe this love story. Those two couldn't have had less chemistry if they were first cousins.
Luhrmann probably latched on to certain words and phrases in that first act, like 'decadence' 'collosal vitality' and 'so we beat on' and put them to literal translation. And, compared to his other work, it's like everything else. A lot of show, and a lot of melodrama, but no real performances, and all of the character arcs have to be shoved into our faces as if we don't get what exactly it is each character is going through. Everything serious and violent has to be done in slow motion, and everything glamorous and uplifting has to look like it was just found in David Bowie's closet and shot through a Sepia filter. It's like, step away from the computer, and read the book another time. But, I'm quite honestly not hating on Luhrmann, I think he's really trying but he's tragically misguided. It's like giving a 3 year old a camera, they don't know what the fuck it is or what to do with it. I think he desperately wants to be camp or even cult, but takes himself too seriously to ever achieve that. He's nowhere near as brilliant as someone like Paul Verhoeven who could adapt Gatsby for half this budget and do a better job. So Baz is floating somewhere in between the John Waters/Todd Haynes/Andy Warhol territory and the Ridley Scott/Michael Bay/James Cameron territory...trying to find his own voice and style, but it's just not one that fits into any kind of spectrum or genre, it's (just like his films) a big ol' mess.
Baz is like the George Lucas of his genre when it comes to actors, where he can take intense complex actors and just make them give the most boring two-dimensional performances of their careers.
The only person that I think gives any kind of performance (and you'll probably kill me for this) is actually Jay Gatsby himself; Leonardo DiCaprio. Though every time he said 'old sport' I cringed because he just couldn't get that to sound natural. He looked the part, he played the part, and he is the artifice through which we see the beginning, middle, and end of a golden age. And he plays all of those movements very well. I'll give him that...or rather to the best of his abilities. It's very hard for a performer like Leo to drown in abysmal material.
A still from Moulin Rouge, with the actors' wardrobe photoshopped so it would be appropriated for the right era.
But in the end, we don't watch Baz Luhrmann's films for the performances lets be honest we watch them so our heads will twirl around until our eyes bulg from their sockets and steam comes out our ears like an old Looney Tunes cartoon. Unfortunately Baz in all of his aesthetic genius couldn't grasp that there is an ironic edge to Gatsby, it's actually not about the glitz and glamour, it's about the tragedy of how putrid and unreal all of that is and the awakening to that; it's the death of a dream not the birth of it. The disillusionment of Neverland and acceptance and acquiessance to banal and bland 'real world' life. Sorry if that ruined Gatsby for you, but you should have fucking read it by now. PS. It is such a fucking cop-out to adapt a book with first person narration into a film with first-person narration, like seriously? We need the book read to us by the main character? That's why the book. I want my 13 dollars back.

Subtitle: 'Ok, it's the 20's but pretend like you're at an LA nightclub in the now. Get her a vodka redbull'
Baz saves the last like 2 minutes to kinda pepper in some tragedy but it's conveyed through a teary-eyed, whiny Tobey Maguire trying his best to emote near a green screen, and feels reminiscent of like a child losing his favorite toy more than disillusionment of an entire era, as usual, it's pretty futile and devoid of any substance. And isn't that the ever-present problem with Baz? That he makes films that are all style and no substance? Give me an example to counter that I defy you.  First he had to ruin Shakespeare for all of us, and now he's taken on bringing down Fitzgerald. Who's next Baz? I'd love to see your adaptation of 'Naked Lunch', I just hope the ghost of Burroughs stabs you in the eye. For some reason I have a feeling he's been itching like hell to re-do 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. Can't wait to hear his bastardized version of Moon River. But for now, let's all sit quietly and wait for his new Kung-Fu epic. Heads are going to roll.

Trailer below (whirlwind of mehhhhhh)

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