When computer-generated graphics were first introduced into movies, I correctly assumed they would be mostly used in blockbuster sci-fi and fantasy films. But Aussie director Baz Luhrmann has given the technology a whole other dimension in his rendition of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It turns out that what works so well in films like Spider Man can be equally effective in a costume drama like Gatsby. The production is a dazzling visual experience, evoking both the Roaring 20’s of the wealthy elite, and at times an almost futuristic bacchanal when Gatsby’s lavish house parties are on display. Some critics suggest the film is somewhat spiritless, but if that is the case it  may have more to do with the source material than any failing  by the filmmaker. When you are working with a story that is as well-known as the F. Scott Fitzgerald opus, you are treading on dangerous ground. Any major deviation from the novel would invite condemnation from literary circles. Yet in adhering as closely as Luhrman has to the plot of the original material, he may have exposed the reality of the book—while considered to be one of the finest achievements in American literature; it is nonetheless a gloomy work. For those who read Fitzgerald’s story before either the 1974  Robert Redford movie — much less Luhrmann’s version—were available, the story seems detached  much as is the narrator Nick Carraway through whose eyes the story is told. Actually Lurhmann has improved on the novel somewhat, at least in his depiction of the glittering Roaring 20’s party scene. Words on paper, no matter how well contrived cannot match the impact of  the 3-D, computer-generated blast of color and sound that Luhrmann has created. This movie is worth watching just for the pyrotechnics, but at the same time you get some fine performances, particularly Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and British actress Carey Mulligan as Daisy.

 

John Best had enjoyed a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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