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Who would actually be able to do The Great Gatsby?

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St. Gloede
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Who would actually be able to do The Great Gatsby?

#1

Post by St. Gloede » June 3rd, 2019, 9:11 am

Hi all,

I never understood why The Great Gatsby has a reputation of being unfilmable, at the end of the day it is a fairly simple narrative - you only need a director/cinematographer who can deliver the mystery, the grandeur, the contradictions and the castle of air.

However, due to the relatively poor opinion of the various attempts to put The Great Gatsby on the screen I had never seen any of the actual adaptations: Until yesterday. Baz Lurhmann got the honor, and what a clownish mess he made of it. Not without redeeming qualities, but with an atrociously mismatched soundtrack, and a level of artificiality that was not complimentary (ironically). The work is however one it may be fun to linger on - but more so, it made me think:

Who could actually bring us a (shall I be cheeky enough to say) great Gatsby adaptation/interpretation?

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#2

Post by St. Gloede » June 3rd, 2019, 9:48 am

I will try to go in three different directions with my first suggestions.

Martin Scorsese
A New York saga of riches and excess set to a backdrop of both organized crime (hell, technically even Wall Street) - and with the potential for a narrator? Honestly, The Wolf of Wall Street and Goodfellas already touch on a lot of the same territory as Gatsby - the grandiouse but empty worlds, and the sly double edged humour/satire was made for The Great Gatsby. The only element with which Scorsese would likely struggle with is the "love story", though Fitzgerald struggled. In some ways Scorsese is a really close stand-in for a cinematic Fitzgerald - and would undoubtedly bring us a great - if not expected adaptation.

Luca Guadagnino
Another director in-love with decorative, wealthy worlds, the emptiness of it all, but also the underlying longing for closeness and love. Guadagnino may succeed where Scorsese would surely come up cold - and he is also not afraid for mystique, double meaning or excess (certainly not the latter). We would likely get a colder more mellow Gatsby (or perhaps not, I'm yet to see Suspira), but I am quite convinced Guadagnino possibly could outdo Fitzgerald in this one respect.

Yorgos Lanthimos
Fresh off the excess of The Favourite, and with his cold, clinical and absurd dark comedy Lanthimos may make every little hint of insidiousness into a cruel joke. His version of The Great Gatsby may indeed be darker that the source material, but few others could truly deliver the artificial world - and his style allows him to get away with things most other directors just couldn't.

Bonus: Jean-Luc Godard
Has JLG even read The Great Gatsby? Maybe a long, long time ago. Regardless, he can check wikipedia, look at a few posters or just remember bits and pieces he has heard and seen over the years. His Gatsby would undoubtedly be King Lear 2 - possibly sporting a talking dog - and there is very unlikely it would be anything but a masterpiece.

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#3

Post by flaiky » June 3rd, 2019, 5:39 pm

I actually liked the 70s film a lot and it's certainly loyal to the book. I'm not sure why it has a modest reputation. I recommend giving it a go. Luhrmann's version is awful, no arguments there.

But to answer your question, I like your suggestion of Guadagnino. Godard? Not so much I'm afraid.
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#4

Post by hurluberlu » June 3rd, 2019, 6:40 pm

Any director that can translate the story to today and make it relevant, I dont think we need another 1920s setting faithful adaptation. Maybe that was Lee Chang-dong's Burning already.
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#5

Post by brokenface » June 3rd, 2019, 7:43 pm

Whit Stillman definitely influenced by it, perhaps could do it.

Or Todd Haynes, Paul Thomas Anderson

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#6

Post by blocho » June 3rd, 2019, 9:13 pm

Everyone's ignoring the obvious. Uwe Boll.

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#7

Post by St. Gloede » June 3rd, 2019, 9:46 pm

flaiky wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 5:39 pm
I actually liked the 70s film a lot and it's certainly loyal to the book. I'm not sure why it has a modest reputation. I recommend giving it a go. Luhrmann's version is awful, no arguments there.

But to answer your question, I like your suggestion of Guadagnino. Godard? Not so much I'm afraid.
Well, glad to hear it. Honestly, if you had asked me in '73 (providing I was a solid bit older than I am) I'd actually be excited as Clayton just seems like such a great fit. Room at the Top, The Pumpkin Eater and even The Innocents all have cinematic/emotional elements that could lend themselves well to a Gatsby adaptation, and if we add in his later The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne the journey is almost complete. Would you say it is a great film, or merely a good one.

(And yeah, Godard was mostly there as a joke - yes I would loved to see it - but he could adapt or make anything from Star Wars to John Wick 5 and I'd be in)

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#8

Post by xianjiro » June 4th, 2019, 5:04 am

sorry, can't resist the temptation to suggest Michael Bay, or for that matter Tommy Wiseau - let either take a crack at the material and I'm guessing we'll be raving about the current adaptations.

I do have to wonder if maybe the reason people don't like the adaptations is because the book leaves enough to the reader's imagination and so it's just never quite how we imagined it.

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#9

Post by cinewest » June 4th, 2019, 12:21 pm

Agree that The Great Gatsby is one of the more filmable novels if only due to its short length (1 page of script is roughly one minute of film), but most novels (particularly very good ones) weren't meant to become movies (that may not be the case any more in this day and age when some authors are writing with movies in mind, or at least use them as references).

That is not to say that I am expressly against great literature being adapted into films, but think that even the best of them tend to either be derivative or interpretive (the format of a TV mini-series would probably render the most complete transformation).

Baz Luhrman's Gatsby is more of the interpretive kind, though he follows the novel very closely in many ways, and attempts to visualize many of Fitzgerald's passages. My problem with Luhrman's postmodern version has more to do with not really liking Luhrmann's over expressive style (neither his palette nor his choice of tones) all that much (I'm not a big fan of DiCaprio either). As for Jack Clayton's version, I would call that one more derivative, though its biggest failure is probably that it is somewhat dull.
Each film had its merits and demerits in my opinion, but neither came close to being the masterpiece that the book is.

Regarding your choice of directors, I am somewhat surprised, and the only one who I think might be able to capture the feel of Fitzgerald's novel is Luca Guadagnino, whose two films I have seen seem to suggest some affinity.
None of the other 3 seem to have anything "Fitzgerald like" about them, so i can only imagine their renditions as being interpretive (Godard has riffed several times on classical works), the most boorish of which would probably be Scorsese's if only because he would try to follow the book more than the others, but would end up delivering something worse and more off kilter than either of the other two versions that have already been made (my opinion any ways).

For 3 better choices take a look at those submitted by Brokenface. All 3 are American filmmakers, and I think that all 3 could tap into Fitzgerald and Gatsby.

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#10

Post by Onderhond » June 4th, 2019, 5:13 pm

xianjiro wrote:
June 4th, 2019, 5:04 am
I do have to wonder if maybe the reason people don't like the adaptations is because the book leaves enough to the reader's imagination and so it's just never quite how we imagined it.
That probably has something to do with it. On the other hand, what's the fun of watching something you could've imagined yourself. I put more value into watching things I never would've been able to imagine myself.

Probably why I didn't mind Luhrmann's version.

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#11

Post by xianjiro » June 4th, 2019, 6:46 pm

Onderhond wrote:
June 4th, 2019, 5:13 pm
xianjiro wrote:
June 4th, 2019, 5:04 am
I do have to wonder if maybe the reason people don't like the adaptations is because the book leaves enough to the reader's imagination and so it's just never quite how we imagined it.
That probably has something to do with it. On the other hand, what's the fun of watching something you could've imagined yourself. I put more value into watching things I never would've been able to imagine posting.php?mode=quote&f=1&p=581449#myself.

Probably why I didn't mind Luhrmann's version.
I didn't want to say it, but I also didn't abhor Luhrmann's version. I saw it as his take, not the definitive reproduction of, the most iconic book of the Jazz Age. But then again, I found Coppola's take on Marie Antoinette (2006) interesting.

It's hard for the modern to not color the historical when represented on film. Even if a production employs a team of period scholars to advise on costuming, language, props, movement, music, there will be disagreement and often some things are simply too expensive to reproduce. So if we're going to "not get it perfectly right" (after all, does/did anyone really know what Fitzgerald was actually visualizing while writing?), why not produce something that is meaningful, relatable to one's audience. Thus why we see Shakespeare set in just about every era one can imagine. (Has anyone done Hamlet on Mars yet?)

As I've thought more about this, I think of two great cinematic takes on the decadence of their respective ages - Fellini's La dolce vita (1960) and Sorrentino's La grande bellezza (2013). How faithful a rendition would either feel compelled to provide? Would we even want that?

As a writer and lover of filmed story, I've written with the screen in mind but never in the same way as one writes a screenplay. Even when my former writer's group would read my work, it was always interesting to hear their different interpretations on the work - sometimes radically different than what I was thinking when I wrote it and yet all interesting and valid. To me, the expansion of the work is wonderful.

The place where I do draw the line is when producers/studios say crap like, "let's make the protagonist straight since that will be better box office." (Granted that was pre-Brokeback.) The fundamental characterization and plot needs to remain if the piece is going to carry the name, otherwise the work is better accredited as "loosely based on ..." or "inspired by ..." and there is nothing wrong with that.

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#12

Post by GruesomeTwosome » June 4th, 2019, 8:03 pm

I found Jack Clayton’s adaptation to be staid and lifeless; I only saw it in high school after our English class had read the book, but I’m guessing my opinion of it wouldn’t change too much now.

I actually did prefer Luhrmann’s take on the material, and I usually hate his stuff. Didn’t love it or anything (still not sure the modern soundtrack worked here), but at least it had some vitality to it and visually speaking, it captured the decadence quite well.
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#13

Post by cinewest » June 5th, 2019, 12:05 am

xianjiro wrote:
June 4th, 2019, 6:46 pm
Onderhond wrote:
June 4th, 2019, 5:13 pm
xianjiro wrote:
June 4th, 2019, 5:04 am
I do have to wonder if maybe the reason people don't like the adaptations is because the book leaves enough to the reader's imagination and so it's just never quite how we imagined it.
That probably has something to do with it. On the other hand, what's the fun of watching something you could've imagined yourself. I put more value into watching things I never would've been able to imagine posting.php?mode=quote&f=1&p=581449#myself.

Probably why I didn't mind Luhrmann's version.
I didn't want to say it, but I also didn't abhor Luhrmann's version. I saw it as his take, not the definitive reproduction of, the most iconic book of the Jazz Age. But then again, I found Coppola's take on Marie Antoinette (2006) interesting.

It's hard for the modern to not color the historical when represented on film. Even if a production employs a team of period scholars to advise on costuming, language, props, movement, music, there will be disagreement and often some things are simply too expensive to reproduce. So if we're going to "not get it perfectly right" (after all, does/did anyone really know what Fitzgerald was actually visualizing while writing?), why not produce something that is meaningful, relatable to one's audience. Thus why we see Shakespeare set in just about every era one can imagine. (Has anyone done Hamlet on Mars yet?)

As I've thought more about this, I think of two great cinematic takes on the decadence of their respective ages - Fellini's La dolce vita (1960) and Sorrentino's La grande bellezza (2013). How faithful a rendition would either feel compelled to provide? Would we even want that?

As a writer and lover of filmed story, I've written with the screen in mind but never in the same way as one writes a screenplay. Even when my former writer's group would read my work, it was always interesting to hear their different interpretations on the work - sometimes radically different than what I was thinking when I wrote it and yet all interesting and valid. To me, the expansion of the work is wonderful.

The place where I do draw the line is when producers/studios say crap like, "let's make the protagonist straight since that will be better box office." (Granted that was pre-Brokeback.) The fundamental characterization and plot needs to remain if the piece is going to carry the name, otherwise the work is better accredited as "loosely based on ..." or "inspired by ..." and there is nothing wrong with that.
I enjoyed your take on film adaptations which is similar to mine, though I don't really understand why you draw the line where you do when it comes to gender ( I may as well add color or ethnicity, etc) as long as the interpretation isn't arbitrary and has something interesting to express that uses the book as source material

Isn't that what art is? We can argue about whether the writer's or director's choices were interesting or meaningful after we see it. Was Luhrman's gay, black Mercutio ok with you? Or what about Joe Wright's truncated, theatrical Anna Karenina, which caught certain things but failed to capture the Russian depth of passion and soul? What about Andrea Arnold's revisionist Wuthering Heights, which does capture the emotional quality of the book in a more modern way, and has some amazing camera work, even though both seem out of place in a film set in the early 19th century English Moors? Or what about Cuaron's update of Great Expectations set in the Florida swamp and New York? I thought it nicely updated in a superficial sense but thought it failed at capturing both depth of character and place.

And I am one that has screamed at the way Hollywood (in particular) and various filmmakers have "ruined" favorite books of mine for not being faithful, though I might still rail against the same films today for different reasons (namely for being lame as art).
Last edited by cinewest on June 5th, 2019, 1:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#14

Post by maxwelldeux » June 5th, 2019, 1:02 am

My wife has read this book over a dozen times - she took a literary theory class in college, and they reread Gatsby over and over again. I just asked her what her favorite perspective was on the novel, and she chose the Queer perspective - she liked the depth you could see in the characters with this perspective, as there was just a little something extra from the queer lens for just about everyone in the novel. So maybe a director who could bring that out? Almodovar?

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#15

Post by cinewest » June 5th, 2019, 1:56 am

maxwelldeux wrote:
June 5th, 2019, 1:02 am
My wife has read this book over a dozen times - she took a literary theory class in college, and they reread Gatsby over and over again. I just asked her what her favorite perspective was on the novel, and she chose the Queer perspective - she liked the depth you could see in the characters with this perspective, as there was just a little something extra from the queer lens for just about everyone in the novel. So maybe a director who could bring that out? Almodovar?
That could be an interesting take, or not. Queers often see the "queerness" in anything strange or different from perceived norms, particularly when it comes to personal relationships or repressed characters, but interpretations are exactly that.

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#16

Post by St. Gloede » June 5th, 2019, 3:26 pm

brokenface wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 7:43 pm
Whit Stillman definitely influenced by it, perhaps could do it.

Or Todd Haynes, Paul Thomas Anderson
Excellent picks, and I agree with Cinewest, if we want an adaptation that comes close to capturing the feeling of the book, all of these 3 may indeed come closer than any of my picks - especially Todd Haynes - though PTA would have been the adaptation I would have been most excited about from these 3. You ultimately need a director who can capture a metaphor simultanously complex and simple - and, at the same time deliver visual imagery equal to the prose if the book.

-

I agree with most statements here that an interpreation would be far more likely to be satisfying, as opposed to a straight adaptation however - and especially the first two, just like my first pick of Scorsese, would likely go primarily for the latter.

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#17

Post by cinewest » June 7th, 2019, 4:32 am

St. Gloede wrote:
June 5th, 2019, 3:26 pm
brokenface wrote:
June 3rd, 2019, 7:43 pm
Whit Stillman definitely influenced by it, perhaps could do it.

Or Todd Haynes, Paul Thomas Anderson
Excellent picks, and I agree with Cinewest, if we want an adaptation that comes close to capturing the feeling of the book, all of these 3 may indeed come closer than any of my picks - especially Todd Haynes - though PTA would have been the adaptation I would have been most excited about from these 3. You ultimately need a director who can capture a metaphor simultanously complex and simple - and, at the same time deliver visual imagery equal to the prose if the book.

-

I agree with most statements here that an interpreation would be far more likely to be satisfying, as opposed to a straight adaptation however - and especially the first two, just like my first pick of Scorsese, would likely go primarily for the latter.
I, too think a PTA version could be very good, though he has never really attempted anything with a New York sensibility (He's from LA, which is world's apart).

As for other interesting adaptations of great novels, I saw James Franco's, As I Lay Dying not too long ago, and was totally surprised at how good it turned out to be.

Never mind the 5.5 rating on imdb- the novel would probably get a worse score by the voters, there. I was hesitant to see, too, not only because I have seen so many disappointing adaptations of novels, but because this was Faulkner, who has hardly seemed filmable to me in the past.

Well, kudos to Franco because I think he did a pretty good job, not only by coming up with some useful cinematic approach, but by recruiting a bunch of outstanding actors.

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#18

Post by weirdboy » June 7th, 2019, 4:45 am

PTA++ I could definitely see him pulling that off well.

I was thinking also maybe Coen brothers.

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#19

Post by xianjiro » June 8th, 2019, 6:10 am

Just finished Crazy Rich Asians (meh) and don't know who'll be directing our dream version of TGG, but have found our production design team.

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