Have you seen the Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby? I went last week with some trepidation as the critics had been cool and found I enjoyed it more than I expected. I had spent some of last year re-reading F. Scott Fitzgerald, including his short stories, and found the Luhrmann hyper-real version of his novel a convincing cinematic take, if not a perfect adaptation. I've seen many critics bemoaning that it is an unfilmable book - surely something that can be said of any novel that has something to say on prose style as well as plot? My cinema experience was in the spirit of a story like 'A Diamond as big as the Ritz' with its ludicrous little kingdom and improbable diamond so I wasn't disappointed. Some of Fitzgerald's fictional worlds were every bit as bizarre as Luhrmann's imagination.
I suppose a mark of a good film is that you continue thinking about it afterwards. One of the aspects that I've been pondering is the use of contemporary music. I'm not a fan of rap but it did make me wonder if the Jazz voices of the era had something of the same shock factor. If you are interested in the mash up approach, the will-i-am track Bang Bang is a good place to start as it mixes the Charleston with his style, making old new and new old. The soundtrack also drove both of my teenagers to see it so that's no bad result for the director.
But perhaps the star of the film for me was the hat worn by Jordan Baker. Thanks to copyright I can't drop in a photo, but if you've seen it, you probably know the one I mean. That hat was a statement, curving round her face like a semi-colon. Only pop stars who make dressing an extreme sport, such as Lady Gaga and Madonna, get away with that kind of approach to headgear these days. Poor old Beatrix and Eugene were treated like the ugly sisters at Cinderella's ball for daring to go wild on wedding hats. They weren't to my taste, but, your royal highnesses, in the 1920s you'd have pulled it off, no problem.
If you enjoy the world of the early decades of the twentieth century, may I put in a plug here for my new book, just out this month. Dusk is a story for young adults (and older) set in 1914 to 1916, published by Penguin. It follows the fortunes of a young half-German nurse trainee and a student at the Slade School of Art.