by Adam Bloodworth , 09 July 2013
Leonardo DiCaprio has a penchant for water which never seems to end well. Similarly, he invests a crippling amount of time in relationships which are more pain than gain. Sixteen years on from Titanic, and seventeen from Lurhamann’s other DiCaprio outing Romeo & Juliet, I sat through another Orange Wednesdays’ worth of water-inclined Leo.
The Australian director’s zestful envisioning is set in modern day New York where the concerns of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel – wealth, notoriety, shame, power – are unchanged by the near passing of a century. Against the backdrop of a city which encourages excess, Nick Buchannan (Tobey Maguire) attempts a sane adulthood – which proves tough in the shadows of the illustrious Gatsby, played with acutely measured pomp by DiCaprio. Carey Mulligan’s Daisy completes the inner-circle; she is Nick’s cousin who Gatsby will do anything for.
Gatsby is commonly known as Modernist fiction’s trophy, which is partly thanks to the novels accessibility: its themes, length and narrative are all available at an afternoon’s perusal – and this quick-fire reward is crucial in any adaptation – whether reading a novel, looking at a screen – or listening to a soundtrack.
Baz Lurhmann’s direction optimises accessibility by freshing up aesthetics – the party scenes redefine vibrancy – and manage to combine 1920s styles with a modern sense of excess. Current musical greats define a removal from the period, as Lurhmann manages Fitzgerald’s concerns against the crunch of the modern beat.
The music’s newness sits alongside displays of drink and drug binges from yesteryear, exploding from the screen like uncorked bubbly – If the 1920s were the Jazz Age, says Lurhmann; this is the age of Hip-eatHop. But more than that, the millennial refresh button creates change in more than just music – the mere viewing of movies wasn’t as freely possible in the 1920s as it is now – and therein lies the difficulty, and importance, in re-aligning the textual concerns of Gatsby with a modern time that kicks far more variously than its predecessors.
Beyonce ft Andre 3000s dulcet ‘Back to Black’ re-envision, plays swiftly after an initial up-tempo Jay-Z number, ‘100$ Bill’, proving how adept this movie is at making subtle, but sublime, statements. The variousness of these tracks is only pedestalled when Winehouse-penned number is properly considered, in the wake of the singer’s death.
Where Fitzgerald’s Gatsby croons and swoons with Jazz, Lurhmann’s track choices criticise the colours on screen by making statements: pop artists sing sad songs as Jay Z’s charm is juxtaposed against the void money exposes in the movie.
For more new-age comment and critique, see Lana Del Rey’s ‘Young And Beautiful’ – an ode to Mulligan’s Daisy – a character bleached with the viciousness of moneyed life.
The wide-spanning tracks – the spatial electronica of The xx ‘Together’, the chart-pop of Fergie, Q Tip & GoonRock’s ‘A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)’, and the power-vocals of Florence & The Machine’s ‘Over The Love’ – play dainty parts in the piecing together of the full ironic picture.
As plush tunes rub together like lovers, a ghostly Gatsby lurks in the shadows of these modern sounds, probing us into evaluation.
As bitterness and disillusion remain, Lurhmann reminds us how little removed we are from the world inhabited by Gatsby. We’re merely afforded new methods of production which allow us to inject human error with beauty.
1. 100$ Bill – JAY Z
2. Back To Black – Beyoncé x André 3000
3. Bang Bang – will.i.am
4. A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie + Q Tip + GoonRock
5. Young And Beautiful – Lana Del Rey
6. Love Is The Drug – Bryan Ferry with The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
7. Over The Love – Florence + The Machine
8. Where The Wind Blows – Coco O. of Quadron
9. Crazy in Love – Emeli Sandé and The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
10. Together – The xx
11. Hearts A Mess – Gotye
12. Love Is Blindness – Jack White
13. Into the Past – Nero
14. Kill and Run – Sia