19 October 2010

Vast Carelessness and Boats Against the Current

This week in on again, off again rumors, it looks as though Baz Luhrmann's plan to direct a new version of The Great Gatsby is back on, according to Vulture.  The all-too ubiquitous F. Scott Fitzgerald novel has been adapted for the screen four times, beginning with a silent version in 1926 (a lost film...no prints exist).  Of course the most famous adaptation at this point is the generally despised 1974 attempt, directed by Jack Clayton, and featuring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford. I wish I could have found some of the original reviews to cite as well, but none were easily findable.  Upon the release of the DVD in 2004, however, Roger Ebert took the occasion to write a scathing review, lambasting the movie for being too faithful to the book and failing to actually capture the spirit of it.

Like it or not, The Great Gatsby has a fan base that is vast and devoted. It's a terribly resonant tale and has become so common in pop culture that sometimes it seems more in fashion to proclaim that the book is actually lacking as a work of great art.  And to commit something so popular to film?  A dangerous venture to say the least.  It's no surprise to anyone that people judge adaptations of favorite novels in a much harsher light than new stories. And rightly so. Remember Bogdonavich's Daisy Miller? Scorsese's The Age of Innocence? Wright's Pride and Prejudice?

Then again, Luhrmann was the reason most of my peers began to like Shakespeare. Our 7th grade English teacher was elated, to say the least.

The word is that Luhrmann would like to cast Rebecca Hall or Natalie Portman as Daisy, Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay, and Tobey Maguire as Nick.  I'm hopeful that Ms. Hall will be better than Ms. Farrow at capturing Daisy.  Although the lovely and waifish Mia Farrow might always be what I see when I picture Daisy, her performance, according to Ebert, was "all squeaks and narcissism and empty sophistication."


Virginia Postrel said...

Vincent Canby in the NYT: http://nyti.ms/bnFKxb

Lead: "The newest, biggest, most expensive and longest screen version of "The Great Gatsby," which had its premiere here last night, moves spaniel-like through F. Scott Fitzgerald's text, sniffing and staring at events and objects very close up with wide, mopey eyes, seeing almost everything and comprehending practically nothing."

Also: "The plot has been dismantled like an antique engine and photographed, piece by piece, preserved in lots of pretty, glistening images that bathe the film in nostalgia as thick as axle grease."

ldbahr said...

This is so wonderful, thank you!


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