Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Great Gatsby (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Great Gatsby

Provocateur and visual man of Oz, Baz Luhrmann offers his version of "The Great Gatsby" with an abundance  of bravado and bijou that borders on the fetishistic and it is all presented with the decadence of 3D. The visuals mesh perfectly with the voluptual theme of wanton excess. The tale could be set in this millennium just as well as the orgiastic 20s with all the references to a greedy and savage Wall Street and its ashen neighborhoods of derelict houses. Then as now, diversion is everything and the bubbling panacea of alcohol, with martini glasses brandished like magic wands, are visible in virtually every frame.

Tobey Maguire, who is appropriately pencil thin and google-eyed, makes a fine passive observer as Nick Carraway. Better still,  he gives an authentic interpretation of Sam Waterston in his role.

This update has a sweeping and glib execution in capturing the mania of action, speed and riotous parties as a vehicle for forgetting grim realities, pushing the gray ocean of the present far from reach.

Gatsby's glare is self created and he is insulated as much by the sheen of his linen as he is by his golden face and allure. Leonardo DiCaprio is pitch perfect as the slick but well meaning bon vivant who will stop at nothing to protect his artifice as a gentleman of good breeding and sophistication. There is something of Redford here in his easy smile and smooth grace, but DiCaprio's emotive rage and wistful torment is all his own.

Carey Mulligan has a solid outing too, as the shaky and superficial delicious demimonde who trembles ten finger-petals on every syllable. Her performance is nimbly fragile and her performance as well is an echo of Mia Farrow's Daisy.

There are many sensory flourishes here in keeping with Luhrmann's spinning, zooming and opulent style. We see glitter on top of glitter that has an actual force and velocity as it shoots into space. And here is Jay Gatsby's creamy yellow car as it roars with a lunatic ferocity, careening off the road. More meaningful though is the haunting creme de menthe beacon as it winks across the bay and into Gatsby's heart in three dimensional perspective. But my favorite remains the apartment scene, a zipping and picaresque tour de force in which we all become voyeurs free to peer into whatever mad domestic scene we choose to observe couples as they fight, scream and copulate and holler. The panoramic shots will delight and certainly recall the breadth, detail and attention from "West Side Story".

Although deeply rooted in the 1920s, Luhrmann borrows from different modes and periods. In a highway scene, flappers dance in a car bouncing their cleavage crazily, jumbling a froth of  gold coins and champagne in the style of a rap video. And, in bookend scenes, Carraway is in a state of near dereliction recuperating in a sanitarium. A pall hovers over everything in the room and snow encrusts on the window like phlegm in what could be a scene from Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula".

As a whole, "The Great Gatsby" is an engaging and colorful adaptation. The 3D visuals inject some addictive motion and verve giving the story a carbonated flavor. The film is  an accessible classic with a hyper pop-up book tone that is upbeat as well as eerie in its theatricality---a Luhrmann trademark.

At last, as the green light of envy and desire flashes in the distance only to fade away, there is something of the genuine Fitzgerald here.

The Baz Luhrmann flair faithfully carries the beat throughout, adding some swell zip and pizazz, but also respectfully retaining  the courage to leave a beloved Old Sport alone.

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