The Great Gatsby is arguably one of the best pieces of American literature. Maybe it’s because the Jazz Age is just naturally intriguing, maybe it’s because the title character is so complicated and hopelessly romantic/ delusional that we like him even though he’s made stupid and misguided decisions, and maybe it’s because F. Scott Fitzgerald tackles so many melodramatic subjects (Unrequited love! Abusive relationships! Unhappy Marriages! Affairs! Murder! New York in what is now remembered as one of the most glamorous time periods of history!) without writing a soap opera. Basically, it is simply a beautiful book. And in preparation for the upcoming Baz Luhrmann movie coming out on May 10, I’ve reread this book and watch Jack Clayton’s 1974 Great Gatsby, the much older and much different movie featuring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.
I’ve read about some people’s low expectations for the new movie: Jay-Z music doesn’t exactly define the Jazz Age in terms of music, the over-the-top-ness of it all may seem too extravagant or glitzy, and of course there are people who don’t like how it’s cast. To which I respond… Leo is perfect for Gatsby. I can’t even think about any actor who would be better for this role. I am relatively certain that he WAS Jay Gatsby is some other life. Carey Mulligan is perfect for Daisy. She has some kind of classic beauty and general appearance that fits with the 1920’s so well.
Jack Clayton’s movie from 39 years ago was an adaption very true to Fitzgerald’s novel (almost to a nuisance. So much narrative!) . The party scene shown in this clip takes us more into the past than No Church in the Wild and 21st century cinematic effects. Look at all those well dressed society party crashers doing the Charleston! This movie has a period-specific and probably period-accurate aesthetic to it. I don’t think this type of accuracy is that compelling, though, to most of the 2013 audience including me, and, you know what, the excitement and cultural relevance Jay-Z brings to this generation of young society people is probably comparable to what Jazz brought in the 1920’s. I absolutely cannot wait for this new movie and for Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation!