The Baz Luhrmann Effect
Last weekend I found myself couch-bound and down with a serious sickness. In times like these, I look to my favorite dvd’s to help me pull through. Fueled by antibiotics and nostalgia, I put in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. This movie is in my all time Top 10, maybe Top 5. That’s how much I LOVE IT! The soundtrack is tops too.
Can you believe how young they were?? Leo and Claire? I forgot how pretty he was. The fish tank scene always makes my heart happy. He falls in love with her so convincingly, with that exquisite face of his, that you can’t help but feel so hopelessly involved yourself, never mind Shakespeare’s incomparable words describing their instant legendary connection.
Natalie Portman was apparently first offered the part of Juliet, but after shooting a few scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio, she looked so young, even next to him, that it seemed as though he was touching her inappropriately. This is one of my favorite Hollywood factoids. I always try to picture Portman in the role…and they were right, I never can.
Baz Luhrmann made this film into a Shakespearean acid trip, where fair Verona is a beach in modern day Florida. It retains the original Shakespearean dialogue, but spoken with modern dialects. The only character to speak in iambic pentameter is Father Laurence. I wish I had been a production assistant on this set. I wish I had been a part of this movie in any capacity.
I like Baz Luhrmann movies (except for Australia, that movie blows). His grandiose spectacle style is designed to get the attention of the people who are over stimulated by twitter and video games. That’s the audience now, isn’t it? Which is why I’m slightly concerned that he’s remaking The Great Gatsby in 3D. I don’t understand why people are so hardcore for 3D. Production for this movie was done in Luhrmann’s native Australia. The Great Gatsby, on the short list of Great American Novels, is being filmed down under. In Australia.
Normally I don’t care about this stuff. But it’s Gatsby…a uniquely American story. I just think that some stories belong irrevocably to a certain place. Gatsby belongs on Long Island. I can’t make myself like that Luhrmann is making Gatsby on a soundstage in Australia, in a totally false environment, when this real place exists. (Though sadly, the house believed to have inspired Daisy Buchanan’s East Egg estate was recently leveled. Check out these photos of the house in the days before it was demolished.)
The Great Gatsby is the product of a particular place and time. The visuals for this movie, not surprisingly, do look amazing. Click here to see the first official trailer that was released just this week. I’m not sure, in this clip here, that Gatsby and Daisy share the same spark as Romeo and Juliet. But trailers are often not representative. I’ll not put too much weight on this one then.