Monday, 27 May 2013

The Great Gatsby 2013

  • Baz Luhrmann - t'other half of Cinema Revisited likes you again.

    Fitzgerald's novel is difficult to transpose onto the screen, so the director has instead translated it. There are both obvious and subtle references
    to the hypocrisy of hierarchy and failure of the "American Dream" (the bronze eagles on the stone plinths a gentle nod and the dialogue at times a slap to the face) of the text but he's chosen to focus on the love story. Perhaps it's more accurate to label it a dream, the fantastical nature of the visuals and the frenetic editing creating a film reminiscent of a Freudian subconscious night scape. Shots are held for no longer than a few seconds and images almost stutter at times; the editing is careful, providing a fluidity of movement and highlighting the ephemeral nature of the tale, the hero and the "love" between him and Daisy.

    The limited use of wide angle shots increases the pace and intensity of the film and contrasts the enclosed, encapsulating environment of the interiors with the calming yet ever-present threat of the exterior - the ocean, the working class territory, the roads running as veins though the industry that feeds the luxury of Long Island and capitalism of central New York.

    The soundtrack going from jazz to Jay-Z by way of Bach reinforces the fantasy element of the tale and the differing versions used of the same songs reflects the way different characters view both themselves, their history and others. Only the anachronistic use of Gershwin jars, it's a clunky moment in an otherwise impressive array of song arrangements.

    The referencing of serpents in relation to women (the chandelier, the decoration of the handrail by the pool for example) hints at both mythical and biblical tales of the destructive or fatalistic influence of women; in particular the florally named Daisy and Myrtle (let's not linger on the potential meaning of Carroway/caraway). There's the usual subtlety of sturdy trees and pale flowers using nature to illustrate the masculine/feminine; again highlighting the impermanence of Daisy's love against the enduring love of Gatsby. The Ad Finem Fidelis emblazoned on his gate is a very literal sign to the audience of his loyalty to both her and the notion of love he has for her.

    The occultist symbolism of the novel is over-played and perhaps only has relevance to those of us who have read the source material; the green light, whilst providing a wonderful visual, is also an unnecessary link to the book. Luhrmann should have played to the strengths of his alternative adaptation. The Hitch-style cameo may be a hint to the viewer that he's adopted the auteur's style of extracting the elements of a novel that play best in a film rather than laying the text verbatim on the screen. The early French farce scenes work to clear the mind of Firzgerald's more gentle, carefully laid out scenarios; the film then softens its focus, not just with the images but also the interplay between characters. In spite of, or perhaps as a result of, the pervasive party scenes the viewer becomes the Carroway character; the third person both watching and participating. There are haunting hints of Carné's Les Enfant du Paradis; the failure or success of relationships, the power and harm of attraction and dependence.

    DiCaprio's heavy acting style managed not to crush the nuances of Gatsby but actually to sustain them through a close, crowded, intense film. Mulligan portrays the evasive, elusive traits of Daisy well and Fisher is bold yet brittle as the overly made-up, passionate Myrtle. Jordan Baker is under-used; perhaps because Luhrmann was less confident with the more androgynous female, to ensure the audience isn't distracted by another potential romance or just for reasons of economy with regard to the script. Edgerton is strength disguised in the form an unfaithful fool. Maguire's Carroway is a less well-formed creation, this is either a strength of the film in that the audience can more easily place itself in his role or a weakness in that he fails to elicit sympathy for Gatsby and the others. Bachchan's Bollywood star shines in his minimal appearances.

    I love the novel and I also admire this film but they are two separate, yet linked creatures, and should be treated as such; if you seek to compare you'll be disappointed, take the occultist hint and open your eyes and mind to something different.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Top Ten Hottest Women in Cinema

It's taken some time but t'other half of Cinema Revisited (Marie) has finally settled on her ten hottest women in cinema.  In no particular order....

Kathleen Turner: I challenge you to suggest another actress who could have burned her way into an audience's psyche with the sort of performance she produced in Body Heat.

Anna Karina: but only in black and white, unfortunately her teeth are a bit grim in colour!  She's captivatingly cool.

Hedy Lamarr: incredibly beautiful and intelligent (look up her contribution to technology, really), but with vulnerability.

Monica Belluci: girl crush! The woman has incredible allure  and the ability to take on challenging roles

Faye Dunaway: sexy, sharp and stylishly sixties. The chess scene in The Thomas Crown Affair is legendary for a reason.

Catherine Deneuve: think Belle de Jour and Repulsion: she draws you in but holds you at a distance. Chic and cutting.

Berenice Marhole: I confess to only having seen her i the latest Bond but she practically crackles on screen; confident, striking and different from the standard Hollywood fare.

Marisa Berenson: she glides with a certain serenity and has a calm beauty that would surely quell any audience in uproar.  Not likely with Death in Venice or Barry Lyndon but never mind.

Charlotte Rampling: surely no other actress has a verb for a form of attraction in her name but take a look at Helmut Newton's photos of her and you'll understand why.

Julie Christie; her Lara is so embedded in my mind I still haven't recovered from discovering that Pasternak's version was not the complex, conflicted blonde shown in Lean's film.  Charlize Theron's recreation for Dior of her Darling "strip" is a good but superficial version of the spiky original.