Last night we packed into Le Grand Rex -a beautiful old art deco theatre – to watch the opening night of The Great Gatsby. I usually go to the cinema on a Sunday morning in Paris because it’s cheaper then, and I like cheaper, though this was an eye-stinging 13€; and for that 13€ you get a pair of 3D glasses on loan so you can be spoon-fed action while sat looking like one of the malleable proletariat on the cover of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle. On occasion I took my glasses off because I’m an individual, but then the screen gets all fuzzy and hurts your head and shit.
One thing I like about watching movies in picture houses here is how earnest everyone is about film. For instance, instead of Pearl & Dean and a slew of horrendous commercials starring multiple Kevin Bacons, we watched an hour or more of goings on at Cannes. If I’m honest it got tiresome by the end, though it certainly beats people fishing in their crevices for popcorn and moaning that they forgot to get M&Ms at the kiosk as processed nacho cheese gloops down the sides of their piggy mouths and launches off their ruddy jowls.
I have a confession to make – I gave up on the Great Gatsby book fairly early on – and my impressions of Fitzgerald are impinged by Hemmingway’s shocking whistleblowing on a friend in A Moveable Feast with not much else to go on. This film has given me no greater insight into the novelist. The Great Gatsby, you see, is the movie equivalent of the moment the white tigers made a bid for supremacy in the Siegfried and Roy household by savaging the hands that fed them. It’s a monstrous, schlocky, gaudy mess, though that doesn’t make it any less compelling. Obviously if you’re going to see a Baz Luhrmann film then you can expect some camp, some chintz and some silliness, but the director seems to have planted his face in a bowl of *cocaine before barking tyrannical “Harder! Better! Faster! Stronger!” instructions to make everything look like a giant Jeff Koons’ wank fantasy. In a tiara.
It’s preposterously busy and the plot clunks on leadenly. I had to ask myself if that was the director’s fault or whether or not the source material itself is hammy and dated (I couldn’t be sure on either, having not read the book). The overt rich people are all shitbags message it conveys is a topical one, and that and the mostly fine performances just about save it. Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent as usual, and he’s always worth mentioning for traffic.
One thing I’m delighted about is that Luhrmann wasn’t given the job of directing Behind the Candelabra, the new movie about Liberace, with the sometimes excellent Steven Soderbergh taking the reigns instead. I have no idea who was in charge of casting, but the decision to give Michael Douglas the lead role seems like the most inspired casting decision in years. Put it this way, I wouldn’t have thought of Douglas in a month of Sundays, and yet you just know he’s going to be terrific. Matt Damon in drag is the stuff of nightmares though, and I’m still trying to work out which Golden Girl he resembles the most. Even if this film turns out to be a disappointment, it has the potential to upset middle America and challenge preconceptions, and that’s always to be applauded. One last thought about films while I’m here, because on the way out I noticed The Hangover III *sigh* is called Very Bad Trip III here. Did the censors decide a hangover wasn’t enough? That it was short on references alluding to the taking of psychedelics in the title? WTF?
*Baz Luhrmann isn’t a drug taker as far as I’m aware.