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The Great Gatsby ....... by Baz Luhrmann.

I grew up in the age with very little television (in India) and thus it is not surprising that I was a big movie buff. The movies influenced my choices very much like television does to young viewers today. They were a source of entertainment, and also inspiration. One thing is certain that they were also the central point of reference when it came to matters sartorial. Of all the movies that I watched (and they were many) the one that stood out was the 1974 version of The Great Gatsby. It was a movie judged worthy of being seen by our school authorities and a special screening was organized for us. I was too young to grasp the subtleties of the plot but somehow it stuck. Maybe it had more to do with the name than anything ... which young kid does not want to be rich and called The Great? Plus there was golf, a sport that my father played and to which I was attracted.
Many years later (in college) I started reading F Scott Fitzgerald and rediscovered the Great Gatsby; it remains my favorite Fitzgerald novel. I am not quite sure why. About a decade ago I decided to revisit the film (on VCD). I am extremely reluctant to revisit films that I have watched during my childhood as I always feel let down.... they are never how I remember them to be. The Great Gatsby was no exception, it was not how I remembered it, it was better! I guess I had grown up.

Two things stood out. The first was the performance of Robert Redford, a perennial favorite. I was blown away with his portrayal of quiet sophistication with an underlining of violence. The second was a shock. It seems that my love for dress shirts stemmed from the movie. Gatsby wore my favorite, a shirt that has always been a part of my wardrobe and always will be. I wore that shirt the day I went to meet my future wife! Ralph Lauren has always been one of my favorite designers and it was a pleasant surprise to learn that he had designed the clothes for the film. I guess the film had influenced my choices far beyond what I had realized.

I was therefore extremely excited when I heard that there was going to be a remake. It was the most anticipated movie release of my life. I made a promise to myself that I was going to go in with an open mind and enjoy the film as it unfolded. A little preliminary research was done, the choice of the director made me realize that it was at least going to be visually spectacular. Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby was a choice I approved of. Music by Jay – Z? I was a bit apprehensive of that. Brooks Brothers seemed a good choice. The trailers were watched on Youtube and they were spectacular. It seemed that this was going to work.

I made my way to the theater a few days ago with my daughter Tara, who was as excited as I was. My enthusiasm had infected her and she liked the trailer and approved of the music! Unfortunately the movie was A rated and we were about to turn back when she insisted that I watch it alone. She would wait for its DVD release. And so I found myself alone at the movie surrounded by 20 year olds. I was bit surprised, I had expected an older audience. I guess all the publicity had attracted the younger crowd. The theater was however half empty. It was then that I decided that I would also try and gauge their reaction to the film. Today’s youngsters wear their feelings on their sleeves and it would be interesting to see their reactions as the film progressed.

The film was a roller coaster ride. Brilliant in parts. The acting was superb. Much faster paced that the 1974 version. However some scenes were found lacking, sometimes they had a fairy tale feel to them. The long shots of Gatsby’s home for example. The architecture of his home was more like a castle in a fairy tale. There were a few changes which did not take away from the plot and I guess they worked. This is discounting the fact that Nick was narrating the story from a sanatorium! But that too somehow worked. I am assuming that you are familiar with the both the 1974 film and the book. The end was powerfully portrayed and I left feeling good.

As expected the film lacked a fair bit in authenticity. However what it lacked in authenticity it more than made up in its pace and flow. A few things that disappointed me – the introduction of Gatsby were rather tame impact wise. The line that is central to the story – “Rich girls don’t marry poor boys “was not delivered by Daisy and thus lost all its relevance. Some amount of violence is shown which was not required. There is an underlining of violence in the story and it should have remained implied in the film. The clothes were ok, I agree with the review in the Gentleman’s Gazette - ‘I liked the general approach to the Gatsby collection, and the fact that BB put some effort into making the style accessible to a larger audience. ‘The cut and fit were contemporary.

The biggest surprise was the music. This was something I was most skeptical about. It was delightful. The BWW review sums it up beautifully – ‘Overall, the GATSBY soundtrack is a nifty mix of contemporary music styles and 20's era jazz that results in a unique, vibrant, and infectious film soundtrack. While some of the tracks are not worthy to be on this album, this is still a commendable soundtrack of a decent film. I find that the sheer ingenuity of the soundtrack for THE GREAT GATSBY works well with the film and it's a stunning collaboration of music, which I found it satisfying, and most of all, fun.’

The reactions of the audience? No great excitement, it seemed as any other movie to them. Did not seem to have much of an impact either way. I don’t think it will play for long in Bangalore so go see it before it disappears from the screens. I only wish it were not in 3 D which I find very disturbing.

To sum up – I enjoyed it. And am looking forward to watching it with Tara on DVD.

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