Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013) 3D

The Great Gatsby - Kultahattu / Den store Gatsby. AU/US © 2013 Bazmark Film III Pty. P: Lucy Fisher, Catherine Knapman, Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Douglas Wick. D: Baz Luhrmann. SC: Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce - based on the novel (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald. DP: Simon Duggan - shot on RED - 3D: 3ality. DI: Cutting Edge. Stereographer: PD: Catherine Martin. AD: Ian Gracie - with Damien Drew, Michael Turner. Set dec: Beverley Dunn. Cost: Catherine Martin. Makeup: Lesley Vanderwalt. Hair: Kerry Warn. VFX: Tony Cole, Animal Logic - Prime Focus - Rising Sun - Iloura - Industrial Light and Magic - Method Studios. VFX data wrangler. R&D. M: Craig Armstrong. Bryan Ferry Orchestra. S: Wayne Pashley. ED: Jason Ballantine, Jonathan Redmond, Matt Villa. Casting: Nikki Barret, Ronna Kress.
    C: Leonardo DiCaprio (Jay Gatsby), Tobey Maguire (Nick Carraway), Carey Mulligan (Daisy Buchanan), Joel Edgerton (Tom Buchanan), Adelaide Clemens (Catherine), Isla Fisher (Myrtle Wilson), Elizabeth Debicki (Jordan Baker), Amitabh Bachchan (Meyer Wolfshiem), Jack Thompson (Dr. Walter Perkins). Speakeasy dancers.
    Loc: Australia. 143 min.
    Released by SF Film Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Katja Juutistenaho / [Marjut Höö... ?]. 2K DCP in Dolby 3D with red-green glasses viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 18 May 2013 (week of European premiere).

I had read some reviews and heard some comments in advance, which is why it was a positive surprise to actually see this adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

The first surprise was how faithful the screenplay is to the novel. It is a pretty straightforward adaptation scriptwise. A major addition is the framework in which Nick Carraway is a nervous wreck who writes his novel on doctor's orders in order to restore his mental health. There is no Dr. Walter Perkins in Fitzgerald's novel.

Omissions are mostly in the conclusion. In the novel Nick finally gets to meet Wolfshiem who refuses to attend Gatsby's funeral. Instead the funeral is attended by Gatsby's father, Henry C. Gatz, who does not appear in the film at all. A minor omission is Nick's Finnish housekeeper.

But mostly it's faithful, and we get to hear much of Fitzgerald's prose in the narration. The text is even foregrounded by graphic means - in 3D. The dialogue, too, is to a large degree taken directly from the novel.

The casting and the performances are good. There is true chemistry between Leonado DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as the lovers Gatsby and Daisy. Tobey Maguire is fine as the narrator-witness, Joel Edgerton is credible as the powerful and vulgar Tom, and Elizabeth Debicki convinces as the worldly golf champion Jordan Baker.

In the beginning the characters look like caricatures, but they become more well-rounded during the movie.

The 3D concept makes sense as a vision of rootlessness, disorientation, and intoxication. Also the central motif of the green light makes sense in 3D.

Remains the question of Baz Luhrmann's visual style, or the absence of it.

Yesterday I happened to see Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, a representative of the cinema of austerity to borrow a term from today's newspapers.

Baz Luhrmann represents the cinema of excess. Experts I respect were positively impressed by Strictly Ballroom (1992) which I failed to like. Romeo + Juliet (1996) I admire, also thanks to the duo Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, convincing in their tragic roles. Moulin Rouge! (2001)... oh dear. Australia (2008) I have yet to see.

The Great Gatsby seems to me like a companion piece to Romeo + Juliet: faithful in the letter, unfaithful in the visual concept. (If I have understood correctly Romeo and Juliet was originally played with no sets, with minimal costume design, and men playing female roles, but the period and location indications are clear if one wants a production with sets and in costumes.)

Visually Luhrmann's Gatsby is excessive, garish, anti-realistic, and with anachronisms. It's a circus. I looks like a parody.

The problem with excess is that nothing gets as boring as quickly as excess.

Racism is a feature in The Great Gatsby: Tom Buchanan is a racial supremacist. He also calls Wolfshiem "a kike" (in the movie only). Bizarrely, in the novel (not in the movie), Wolfshiem's front company is The Swastika Holding Company.

The film most impressively influenced by The Great Gatsby is Citizen Kane, because of the Trimalchio theme (The Great Gatsby's working title was Trimalchio), and the central role in the stories of Gatsby's mansion and Xanadu respectively. Both are about dreams that the protagonists think money can buy.

The 2K 3D presentation of The Great Gatsby with Dolby 3D red-green glasses in Tennispalatsi 1 was dreary. The colour was denatured and affected. There was a strange low definition look. The story about luxury looked cheap. But the problem may have been with the presentation, not the movie.

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