Sunday, April 28, 2013

Why Gatsby Will Always Elude Film

We all saw Coppola's effort to capture The Great Gatsby with Redford and Mia Farrow mooning after each other in seventies grandeur. Great clothing. Great cars. Great music. Terrible movie. And yet here was Fitzgerald's masterpiece, but of course Coppola's problem was he was too in love with the novel. He tried to interject Fitzgerald's prose wherever he could and it was like laying silk on charcoal. "Cant repeat the past, of course you can old sport!' Redford choked on that one.

And if the characters didn't choke on the prose then the narrator did. "I have been turning over some advice my father gave me once...." The stertorous Nick Caraway years before he was a TD Waterhouse mouthpiece just couldn't handle those lines without dropping them like lead into the Long Island Sound. And why shouldn't he? Voice overs are tricky anyway and literary voice overs feel like syrup dribbled all over perfectly good scenes. Scream when the metaphors become too much.

But metaphor was Fitzgerald's gift and that elegiac elegant prose does not translate to the eye or the ear. It was meant to be read. Sadly for DiCaprio and everyone else involved in the new attempt to bring Gatsby to the twenty first century they will only succeed in sending people to find the book. And even if they update the story will not translate. The intelligence of Fitzgerald and any first rate novelist is they understand the keening of a read line of prose and its impress on human consciousness. No amount of CG will ever bail out a visual medium in this area.

And so we will be left with the plot without the fine linen. And so, we will beat on, boats against the current, born back ceaseless to the novel. And not the film.

Rocket Man...The American dream turned upside down
 

Books by William Hazelgrove