Sunday, May 05, 2013

déjà vu

Baz Luhrman's new version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s "The Great Gatsby" runs 142 minutes.

Jack Clayton's 1974 filmization of the same material runs 144 minutes.



Baz Luhrman's "Gatsby" is breathlessly being ushered to the screen as a Big Event, replete with 3-D and gorgeous Leo as Jay Gatz.

Jack Clayton's "Gatsby," I hasten to note, was an even  bigger deal nearly 40 years ago, replete with a Francis Ford Coppola script and beautiful couple Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in the leads. Even more gorgeous.

Fact is, Clayton's "Gatsby" was the first to be sold as a modern movie event, predating "Jaws" by one year and the “Star Wars” assault by three years. (The Spielberg and Lucas films would simply up the ante.)
Time magazine devoted a 1974 cover story on the over-the-top hype that preceded and accompanied the opening of Clayton's film, and Farrow, as Daisy, graced the cover of the very first edition of People magazine.

This was all part of the overwhelming “Gatsby” marketing blitz which not only distracted from the many merits of the movie but also brought out the venom of critics - hence, the glib Canby dismissal ("as lifeless as a body that's been too long at the bottom of a swimming pool") that's been invoked in seemingly every New York Times article promoting the new version.  Me?  I rather like and admire the Coppola-Cayton version.

He says defiantly.

Back in '74, Robert Evans, the marketing Svengali behind Clayton's film, was quoted in the Time piece saying, "The making of a blockbuster is the newest art form of the 20th century."  Being interviewed for the new version of "Gatsby," Evans steps back, warning about about the temptation to “overcommercialize and overpublicize” the Fitzgerald source material

And he's correct but that's certainly what he did 40-plus years ago.

So, the only real point of Luhrman's remake is that very little has changed in the movie industry. Except for its  taste in music.

For his version, Luhrman elected to, well, baz things up by bringing in Shawn 'Jay Z' Carter to add some anachronistic background songs.

Clayton?  He had the actor William Atherton croon Irving Berlin's wrenching "What'll I Do?" over the main credits.  Much preferable.


Mary said...

Redford is stunning as Gatsby. So is his film.

Tony said...

I saw the Redford-Farrow film only recently and really surprised me. In a good way.

Nathan Ware said...

I disagree with critics all the time because they all seem to paint with the same brush. It's rare to read a contrarian review anymore. (Pauline Kael, we miss you!) So I wasn't surprised by how much I liked the Redfordd "Gatsby." Can't understand the animosity leveled at it, except (as you infer)the hype overshadowed the reviews, causing resentment.

Yin said...

Count me in as one of the few people who have one of the few people who “resisted” the decades-long attack on Jack Clayton's "Great Gatsby." I think it's exquisite.

wwolfe said...

I wish the current Gatsby would lead to the discovery and re-release of the 1926 silent version starring Warner Baxter. According to IMDb, it's a lost movie, sadly. I can still recall Stanley Kaufman's reference to it in his review of "Wall Street, however, and I've wanted to see it ever since. At a modest 80 minutes, and sans both color and sound, it would, if nothing else, be much less of an assault on one's senses than Baz's version must surely be. (I also think Baxter would look more right for the part than either Redford or Leo. I just can't believe either was ever Jay Gatz.)