What’s more important: quantity or quality? Obviously, most people would say that quality should trump quantity every time. Of course, there are challenges to producing quality products, which may lead to an increased cost for the consumer. Similarly, in the triangle of quality/cost/schedule, if a product is of high quality, it won’t appear very often. The dichotomy of quantity vs. quality can be seen in the film industry as well. There are some directors who direct at least one film every year, while others can take four years or more to release a movie. The former relies on the chance that one of their many films is successful, thus making up for less-than-exemplary performance on other projects. Director Baz Luhrmann definitely falls into the latter category. This week’s two films highlight some of the rare works of Baz Luhrmann.
The Great Gatsby
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours
It’s difficult to tell what motivates quality directors to take so long to create their films. Perhaps they’re trying to find the right source material. Perhaps the creative process takes a long time. Perhaps they’re controlling more aspects of the film than most. Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves once the film is released. Aside from Luhrmann, other directors who seem to follow this format are Christopher Nolan and David Fincher. Each one of them has received plenty of recognition for their works and each one of them has their own, recognizable visual and thematic style. For Luhrmann, after his love-letter to his homeland, Australia (2008), it took him five years until The Great Gatsby (2013) was released. It’s now four years later and there isn’t much (if any) word about Baz Luhrmann’s next project; but I’m sure it’ll follow the same style he’s used for years.
Recovering from his alcoholism, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) finds the only relief from his struggles to be writing down the words that float around him, describing the events that led him to this state. With a cousin who was supported by “old money” and a neighbor who has profited from the “new money”, Nick finds himself in between Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), respectively. As everyone’s affairs become more entangled, emotions run rampant and feelings are inevitably hurt. Divorces are being discussed and accusations of murder are now part of the mix. Everything happened so close to Nick that he finds himself unable to cope with it until he finally breaks down and returns to his true passion: writing. Thus, the cautionary tale of “The Great Gatsby” was born.
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours
While it isn’t in the format of a traditional trilogy, Moulin Rouge! (2001) is actually the final act of Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy. Starting in 1992 with Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann followed this film up with Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge!. These three films only came four years apart from each other, which was much faster than his two most recent films (Australia being released seven years after the end of The Red Curtain Trilogy). Why Luhrmann holds his first three films as a trilogy is due to a single motif that appears in each: the theatre. There are many elements that make the theatre what it is, and each film explores a different part of it. From the dancing of Strictly Ballroom, to the poetry and wordsmithing of Romeo + Juliet, to the singing of Moulin Rouge!, the theme of the theatre is what ties these films together.
One of Baz Luhrmann’s other talents, besides directing, is mixing music. This is a common theme throughout his movies, each one featuring at least one remixed song. The film that exemplifies this part of his style is Moulin Rouge! Set at the turn of the 20th century, Christian (Ewan McGregor) finds himself ready to engage in the Bohemian culture of Paris. As a writer, his talent is encouraged by his upstairs neighbors: a troupe of actors who need his help to finish a show they want to sell to the Moulin Rouge. Through a case of mistaken identity, Christian is given prime treatment by the dance hall’s primary star, Satine (Nicole Kidman). Even with the mistake rectified, the two still fall in love, which creates a problem for the Moulin Rouge, since Satine is needed to woo a benefactor so that it can stay in business. On top of this, Satine is gravely ill, but hides it from everyone, including Christian.
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best from Baz Luhrmann
Bacon #: 2 (The Great Gatsby / Tobey Maguire -> Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)