Saturday, May 18, 2013

Movies: The Great Gatsby

"The Great Gatsby", directed by Baz Luhrmann, was one of the most anticipated movies of the year (imdb). The buzz was created by a well oiled marketing campaign, a gorgeous trailer ( and the prestige of the same named novel which is one of the classics of American literature. Both the book and movie are set shortly after the year 1920 (the roaring twenties) and cast a light on the life of the well-off who lived close to New York.

The story focuses on a "Mr. Gatsby," a mysterious billionaire whose history and origin of wealth are sources of rumor. This reminds me a bit of hedge fund managers who are residing in their Connecticut estates today. Just before the movie was released, I streamed the "Great Gatsby" movie from 1974 (imdb). This film with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was already the third incarnation of the Gatsby pictures.

The 2013 Gatsby is much better than the 1974 version, but didn´t come up to my expectations. Maybe my anticipation was too high after all this buzz. The plot of both versions was too kitschy and too melodramatic for my taste, but that´s a matter of opinion.

The cast was as brilliant as hoped and much better than in the 1974 version. Leonardo DiCaprio in the leading role beat Redford by length. DiCaprio is "The Great Gatsby". The actor owns the role. He possesses the ease, effortlessness and style a man radiates when money doesn´t play a role any more.

Tobey Maguire almost stole the focus as the introverted neighbor and observer. The actor is a perfect mirror for transmitting and amplifying the plot. In Maguire`s face, you can read his amazement, puzzlement and empathy.

Carey Mulligan as a beautiful but spoiled upper-class trophy woman also is part of the film`s wonder.

Unfortunately, the cinematography disappointed. This could be the fault of the now fashionable 3-D projection.
Some of the artificial, plastic impressions functioned, especially when the camera let the audience participate in a car drive or simulated a deep fall.

But many other scenes reminded me of pop-up-books for children. Something or a person popped suddenly up and almost stuck in the face of the observer, the rest laid in the background like a picture on the wall. And: Continuously watching things and persons popping up got tedious and tiring for the eyes.

Some of the scenery, especially the backgrounds and horizons, looked poor. New York City, recreated from the 20s of the last century, looked almost painted by hand and reminded me of cheap movies from the beginning of cinema.

The soundtrack, a mixture of contemporary party music and modern hip-hop, was acceptable but I missed the gorgeous musical score from the trailer (

Luhrmann delivered a passable work, not more.  A master in the like of Paul Thomas Anderson,  David Fincher, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski and Lars von Trier could have delivered a classic. Luhrmann did not.

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