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Great Gatsby, Luhrmann Style

I saw The Great Gatsby over the weekend. Twice. Two times may have been overkill, but the opportunity came up and I really enjoyed seeing it the first time. It struck me as a very literary movie–not just in the obvious sense of it being based on a book, but also in terms of how F. Scott Fitzgerald’s words and quotes were incorporated into the movie.

I’m a fan of Baz Luhrmann and the way he mixes contemporary elements with stories about the past. From Romeo + Juliets California setting and gang-like rivalry, to Moulin Rouge‘s use of modern pop songs to tell a story, it really lends reference to the fact that people never change. By mixing the modern and the old-fashioned, Lurhmann reminds us that while we change superficially, we never change fundamentally as people.

With Gatsby, this comes across most at Jay Gatsby’s ragers, where carefree/careless young people drink and dance all night on someone else’s dime. Luhrmann makes the scene even more familiar with his sound effects. Not only is the soundtrack recognizable to contemporary ears, but as the characters move from room to room, the music becomes muddied and muffled, like you’re at the party with them.

There were times when the special effects felt like too much, but it goes with the over-the-top feeling of the entire movie. The party scenes, especially those with lots of alcohol, come across as particularly frenetic–I felt like I didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking at while watching it.

But, frankly, it’s the story that will always sell Gatsby for me. It’s still something we can very much relate to: Nick Carraway, who will always be that one character who’s different, who’s actually sincere; the crazy parties; the selfishness of people; the entitlement of those with money.

I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

Beyond the movie, it made me more curious about Fitzgerald. I read Zelda by Nancy Milford a few years ago, but not much stuck with me aside from the fact that Zelda had a curious penchant for noses. And that the Fitzgerald’s Baltimore home was up for sale not too long ago. (How fantastic would that be?)

I’m a romantic; a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.

My favorite book of his was always This Side of Paradise. And as I grow older, I’ve been feeling more of an affinity with the Lost Generation than my go-to Beats or even the Dadaists. We change over time, and time changes along with us. I wonder if that change, for me, is a reflection of our general culture or the way I live, which wasn’t at all what I expected as a 15, 16, 17 year old.

Nevertheless, Gatsby sticks with you, in film or book form. And it’s gotten this lovely song by Lana Del Rey stuck in my head for the past week:

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