The mood of the newly released trailer to Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is much like the cinematic New Year’s countdown to an apocalyptic drama, ticking away to the pulsating rhythm of Jay-Z and Kanye West‘s “No Church in the Wild”. Luhrmann’s ubiquitous bird’s eye view of a youthful, raging party envisions the social bubble that encapsulates the 1920s equivalent of the contemporary trustafarian, embellished with the fashions and choreography of a bygone era.
The restlessness of 1920s youth culture seen in the trailer alone speaks to the post-wartime spuriousness anticipating the looming economic crash that would be The Great Depression. Before we get lost in Leo‘s brooding eyes, or Carey’s impeccable costumes, remember that Prince warned us “the beautiful ones, they hurt you every time”. The lush visuals Baz Luhrmann sets before our eyes only offers an artifice to the emptiness and yearning of a generation who simply wants more once they have it all.
The 2012 rendering of The Great Gatsby follows a formula that has served not only Luhrmann well, but also cohorts the likes of Sofia Coppola: repackaging the historical events we slept through in high school into something we can actually relate to. Coppola’s 2006 Marie Antoinette spliced the fashion trends of a 18th century queen with the trends of today, serving up contemporary realness right down to the well-worn pair of Chucks intricately spotted in her bedroom. In a similar fashion, The Great Gatsby mashes up the decadent sartorial whims of young flappers with what Luhrmann imagines we would wear to a rich friend’s house party today, so don’t be surprised if your favourite retailers and design labels start drinking the Kool-Aid come fall.
Much like Marie Antoinette and Luhrmann’s other notable film (aside from Moulin Rouge), Romeo + Juliet, the ultra-kinetic party scene is always an aesthetic centrepiece, a reliable foreshadowing of a youth culture’s demise. The economic climate of The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Jazz Age” is much like that of today; we self-medicate with the beautiful and the sublime in hopes that we can grasp purpose and meaning in our lives through object and fantasy. It is easy to see Leo’s mythic character “the Gatsby” as a precursor to Chuck Bass, as he stalks his mansion tossing Brooks Brothers button downs around like dollar bills.
It will also be interesting to see how Luhrmann’s re-imagining of an American literary classic will bleed through our cultural psyche, and how his anachronistic devices will galvanise new ideas in the way we dress ourselves. That said, I urge you to indulge in the romanticisation of history’s epic dramas through the contemporary cinematic lens… just brace yourself for the unsexy hangover in the end.