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Gatsby Returns

Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby

Pictured: Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

Book lovers the world over will be either anticipating or highly suspicious of next week’s movie release of The Great Gatsby, directed by Baz Lurhmann. Jay Gatsby, Scott Fitzgerald’s doomed dreamer, is an icon of 20th century fiction. A man perhaps more sinned against than sinning, he’s the epitome of the flawed hero, the bootlegger whose passion for the feckless Daisy brings about his own destruction. Fitzgerald not only coined the term the “Jazz Age” but brought it to life with keenly observed descriptions of lavish lifestyles, wild parties, rich and bored socialites in an age of excess. Those tempted to dismiss Fitzgerald as a chronicler of the privileged few, should look again and see how cynical the book really is in its portrayal of an American dream built on amorality and corruption. Fitzgerald was a consummate stylist and his exquisitely honed prose is unbelievably seductive: Gatsby is a book that begs revisiting more than once and Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, says he reads it at least once a year for inspiration. Bringing Gatsby to the big screen is a big ask. In 1974, Robert Redford and Mia Farrow starred in the first movie, with a script by Francis Ford Coppola, directed by Jack Clayton. Although praised for its costumes and set, critics by and large dismissed the film as lifeless. Perhaps the most exciting interpretation and celebration to date has been American theatre company Elevator Repair Service’s marathon production GATZ last year, which staged an 8 hour complete reading of the novel. It’s toured extensively but alas isn’t scheduled for Australia, although it seems to me to be an obvious Arts Festival highlight. In the meantime, Baz Lurhmann has some pretty big shoes to fill!