Gearing up for Gatsby

Tonight is opening night for Baz Luhrmann’s new film, “The Great Gatsby”, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of the same name. Gatsby is often spoken of as “the great american novel”, and Fitzgerald’s “magnum opus.”  It has also often been described as “unfilmable”, which hasn’t stopped four previous filmmakers from trying to bring the book to the cinema (including a lost 1926 silent movie), with generally underwhelming results.

Jackson Bryer, professor emeritus of English at the University of Maryland and president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society explains that making a movie of “Gatsby” is like “adapting a poem.” Bryer says that “part of the beauty of the novel is that [Fitzgerald] doesn’t tell you much about anybody. Once you particularize it by making it Robert Redford or Leonardo DiCaprio, you’re limiting it.”

Having said all that, the new film is receiving good reviews, including one from New York Times critic A.O. Scott who calls the movie, “eminently enjoyable”, and suggests to viewers that they put aside “whatever literary agenda you are tempted to bring with you.”  If you’ve enjoyed any of Luhrmann’s other stylistically over-the-top films including Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge, or Strictly Ballroom (my personal favorite), and you’re curious to see his take on filming the “unfilmable” novel, you can find out –the film is opening right in town at the Garden Theater.

If Luhrmann’s film whets your appetite for more Gatsby, or if you want to get in the Gatsby mood before seeing the movie, check out my list of Gatsby-related materials available through the library: Gearing Up For Gatsby. If you see the new film or have any recommendations for other resources to add to the list, please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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