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May 08, 2013

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Randy Byers

Haven't seen this yet, but I did just re-read the book and can say that Fitzgerald puts racism in Tom Buchanan's mouth too, also for the purpose of making him look loathsome. On the other hand I thought Luhrmann's treatment of race in AUSTRALIA was pretty paternalistic.

Petey

He may never make another good movie, but he gets into heaven just based on Moulin Rouge...

Peter Nellhaus

Way back about 1974, Ric Menello and I once wrote a fake movie review about Larry Cohen's "Black Gatsby", with Fred Williamson and Jay "The Hammer" Gatsby, Pam Grier as Daisy Buchanan, and Richard Pryor as Nick Carraway. We kept Howard Da Silva as Meyer Wolfsheim. Soundtrack was by James Brown. After reading about this new "Gatsby", the film Ric and I wrote about for our own amusement seems like it still would have made the better film.

Kurzleg

I've only seen the preview in the theater, but my impression was that everything looked so artificial as to totally undermine the weight of the story it was telling. Say what you want about the 1974 version, at least it maintained the look and feel of real places and real people with which one could identify. I'm not sure it's even possible to tell this story at all through a visual style so divorced from any reality one might recognize, let alone identify with. Caricature may not quite be the right word to describe what I saw in the preview, but it's close.

Jeff McMahon

I enjoyed Moulin Rouge back in 2001, but man has it not aged well for me. Also the many, many seams are harder to ignore.

MarkVH

I don't think Moulin Rouge has aged poorly at all. I catch bits of it whenever it's on TV and it still gets me where it counts every time. McGregor's performance carries it.

Also, does anybody find it interesting that Malick gets so much shit for taking so long with his films, yet Luhrman has only released two since Moulin Rouge? Malick has had three in the same timeframe. Maybe not so interesting, but, y'know, seems worth noting.

Oliver_C

As Nietzsche might have put it -- Many make films too infrequently, some make them too frequently! Few manage to make films at the right intervals.

I found 'Moulin Rouge!' better than 'Across the Universe' but far inferior to 'Everyone Says I Love You'.

Petey

"I don't think Moulin Rouge has aged poorly at all. I catch bits of it whenever it's on TV and it still gets me where it counts every time."

Yup. I can watch the whole thing every two years or so, and always have a spectacular, spectacular time.

"McGregor's performance carries it."

Everything working together carries it. The cast, script, soundtrack, and cinematography are all working furiously together on the same page. Or put another way, Kylie Minogue carries it. It's the movie Baz was born to make.

(But, yes, Ewan can generally carry a movie.)

Two endnotes:

- Along the lines of the "Garbo Laughs!" tagline for Ninotchka, I always thought the MR marketing folks should have used a "Broadbent Dances!" tagline. That would've goosed the gross.

- I came sooooo close to missing it in the theater during first run. I hadn't been a fan of Romeo + Juliet, and I'd thus decided to avoid it during the run. But on the Thursday at the very end of the run, me and my companion decided at the multiplex to skip the movie we there to see in order to catch what we figured would be at least vaguely interesting. And very happy with our decision we were.

Jeff McMahon

Not to belabor the point, but doesn't it bug you guys how clearly big chunks of Moulin Rouge are being held together by the yellowing tape of voiceover? That there are huge chunks that were heavily cobbled together in post-production?

I mean, Kylie Minogue wasn't even in the movie until reshoots. I don't generally believe in giving a movie crap for its production problems because in the end if it works, it works. But for me MR is like a bunch of gumballs that have been partially chewed and then mashed together.

But yeah, it is better than Across the Universe, which really should have just been a series of unrelated music videos.

george

Kurzleg: I also think the '74 version is underrated. It got vicious reviews that were undeserved,and it continues to be scoffed at. (It WAS excessively hyped before its release, which may have provoked the critics' ire.)

I can't recall another movie that was so attacked for being TOO faithful to its source. Much of the dialogue was verbatim from the book. The gripe was that Fitzgerald's dialogue works on the page but not on the screen. Basically, the critics were saying the same thing MGM producers told F. Scott when he was trying to write screenplays. The dialogue works for me.

george

The 1949 version (which can be seen on YouTube) is also not bad, and Alan Ladd is surprisingly good as Gatsby. Unfortunately, Betty Field's Daisy is unfocused. She alternates between utter blandness and seeming to be mentally ill.

The main problem is there's no mystery about Gatsby's past or source of income. We're told from the start that he's a bootlegger, and Gatsby is introduced shooting it out with rival gangsters. Ladd makes his entrance wearing his familiar fedora and trench coat. He's a figure from 1940s film noir dropped into the '20s. There are more flashbacks designed to "explain" Gatsby that I could have done without.

Still, the '49 version has interesting moments, and is worth seeing at least once.

Petey

"But yeah, (MR) is better than Across the Universe, which really should have just been a series of unrelated music videos."

Hate modern musicals much?

I mean, Across the Universe is pretty damn flawed. But, even so, it's still pretty OK. And Moulin Rouge! is indeed quite a bit better.

"doesn't it bug you guys how clearly big chunks of Moulin Rouge are being held together by the yellowing tape of voiceover? That there are huge chunks that were heavily cobbled together in post-production?"

As you go on to note, who cares? If it don't work for you, it don't work for you. (Or in my case, vice versa.) But messy production processes and the basic concept of V.O. don't bother me in the abstract.

(The REAL problem with Moulin Rouge! is that the latter part of the Second Act gets sluggish, which is a sin in its particular universe. But even that doesn't make it unlovable. The first half is stunningly stellar, and the Third Act brings it home. That's enough.)

Bettencourt

From Glenn's review: "irritating and tedious and leaden." Ah, so there's a new Baz Luhrmann film out.

On the other hand, I'm apparently the only one here who loves ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (while abhorring MOULIN ROUGE), so who am I to judge?

george

I was able to sit all the way through "Across the Universe." That's something. I fled the theater after the first hour of "Moulin Rogue." It was giving me a migraine.

Betttencourt

I probably would have walked out on MOULIN ROUGE, but I haven't walked out on a film since BEYOND EVIL in 1980 (and that was partly because the audience itself seemed on the edge of violence).

Jeff McMahon

If it works, it works, but I'm just trying to arrive at consensus that, regardless of whether Moulin Rouge works for you or not, that it's a tad garbled in its storytelling/command of narrative and exposition. And of course, "it doesn't matter" is a perfectly valid reaction to this claim.

To be more blunt, I'm taking exception with your earlier comment, "The cast, script, soundtrack, and cinematography are all working furiously together on the same page." They might all be on the same page, but some of those elements do a lot more of the heavy lifting than others.

But yeah, I don't like most modern musicals. I feel like they range from the inert and stage-bound (The Producers, Nine) to the wrong-headed (Across the Universe, Dancer in the Dark) to the incompetent (Les Miserables). Of non-animated musicals from the last 15 years the only ones I kinda liked were Chicago and Sweeney Todd.

Glenn Kenny

I've been meaning to take a look at this again, just to make sure, but a movie I remember more and more fondly the more I think about Baz is Julien Temple's "Absolute Beginners," a picture I thought got a bad rap at the time of its mid-80s release. It may have turned out to have been a work of prophecy that was also better than the stuff it ended up ushering in...

Petey

"That there are huge chunks that were heavily cobbled together in post-production?"

It's a feature, not a bug!

From the execrable Nikki Finke:

"Luhrmann was conspicuously absent from March’s Gatsby-hyping CinemaCon for exhibitors because, as he said in a pre-taped greeting, he was still tweaking the pic weeks before release. Crunched for time, he couldn’t even fly back to Australia to direct the reshoots in person. Instead he Skyped in to direct from NY where he was simultaneously piecing together a re-edit."

The GG may or may not suck. I haven't seen it yet, but I've only really liked one Baz flick so far, so I'd lean towards suck. But regardless, Skyping in to direct the reshoots cuz you're stuck glued to the Moviola IS kinda cool...

-----

"But yeah, I don't like most modern musicals."

How do we feel about Tommy?

Petey

"I'm just trying to arrive at consensus that, regardless of whether Moulin Rouge works for you or not, that it's a tad garbled in its storytelling/command of narrative and exposition."

I'd argue that, properly assembled, singin' + dancin' + Busby Berkeley-esque camera tricks change some of the fundamental equations in what normally makes a movie work. (You still need emotional stakes too in order to really get it all to pop, but MR! managed to accomplish that for me.)

Kurzleg

George: I had not investigated the '49 version (who directed and starred), so hearing that Ladd is in it does pique my interest. If nothing else, you get a the take of a different era on Gatsby, and that itself can be interesting.

I watched the '74 version again last week, and it more than reinforced what I wrote above. In my opinion, Farrow is superb as a dissatisfied upper crust wife who tries desperately to keep up a facade of happiness. Dern's entitled old-money brute has just the right layer of amiability. Black, Wilson and Waterston, they all came ready to play, and it's fun to watch. Redford's Gatsby isn't as memorable, but I think he made a smart choice to play everything close to the vest. Ultimately, though, the way the excesses of the parties is depicted is the thing that roots the film in recognizable reality. You see the enormous effort involved in the delivery and preparation of the food, which requires actual hard work. At the beginning of the night the guests and the house may have looked superb, but by the end things get sweaty and sloppy, it rains and the veneer wears off of everything.

Jeff McMahon

"singin' + dancin' + Busby Berkeley-esque camera tricks change some of the fundamental equations in what normally makes a movie work."

Agreed, which is why the garbled narrative didn't bother me on my first/second/third viewing.

I haven't seen Tommy in forever, so no opinion. I generally like Ken Russell though.

My favorite musical of any kind from the last 15 years: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.

george

I don't think the Ladd version of "Gatsby" has ever been available on VHS or DVD. (Correct me if I'm wrong.) And I don't think it's been on TV since the Redford version was released. Paramount basically buried it. As I said, it's a flawed film, but it's interesting.

SPOILER: Gatsby's death is surprisingly violent. We see bullet holes and gushing blood on Ladd's back and chest. Visible wounds were rare in movies of that era. I wonder how Paramount got away with it.

george

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpchRwubUzc

Kurzleg: The new version won't be "Gatsby" to me unless I hear this on the soundtrack -- but I probably won't.

The '74 version reflected a time when American movies were striving for realism, even in a depiction of wealth and "glamour." The new version reflects our time of totally artificial movies, when you can create mansions and cities (and Gatsby's roadster) with a computer.

Kurzleg

George -

I couldn't agree more about "What'll I do?" in the soundtrack. It's part of what gives the '74 version that melancholy feeling and perfectly sets the tone for what follows.

Bettencourt

Aren't there video versions of the 74 GATSBY where "What'll I Do" has been yanked from the score due to Irving Berlin rights reasons?

george

Yes, I've heard there are home video versions that don't have that song. It is on my DVD copy, though.

george

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=c7XD85Vur4w

Here's another song I'll always associate with Gatsby, because of its use in the '74 version. Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather hear authentic '20s music in a movie SET IN THE '20s than Jay-Z or Lana Del Ray.

But I guess you could say anarchonistic music has a long history in movies -- going back at least to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in 1969. I plan to see the new "Gatsby" later this week. No idea whether I'll love it or loathe it.

Brian D.

George, it's on the Netflix streaming version, too, which I just watched the other day. I'm not sure everything works in that film, but it's really interesting, and has a lot of lovely moments. And how good is Lois Chiles? Aside from this and her Bond movies, I don't know a lot about her career, but she's a spectacular Jordan, and it makes you wish she'd gotten more opportunities.

Oliver_C

Flagrantly anachronistic scores ('Gangs of New York', 'Public Enemies') are usually a turn-off for me, though recently I did enjoy the jaunty, Celtic-sounding music for Hirokazu Kore-eda's little-seen samurai drama 'Hana'.

Jeff McMahon

What counts as a flagrantly anachronistic score? As far as I know there weren't any symphony orchestras at the time Ben-Hur or Spartacus were set.

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