Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Minogue and Luhrmann Reunion (of sorts)

There's a glamourous synchronicity between the two trailers that I'm showing you today. It was 11 years ago that American got their first glimpse in many a year of Australian pop megastar Kylie Minogue as she donned green wings and portrayed an absinthe-drenched fairy spouting the lyrics of Rogers & Hammerstein across the rooftops of 19th century Paris in Moulin Rouge! It was a particularly canny move by both Minogue and director Baz Luhrmann, and remains one of the defining moments of Minogue's career, which is pretty impressive for something that amounts to no more than a minute of screen time. Just a few months after that film's release, Minogue's era-definding "Can't Get You Out of My Head" went to #1 in 40 countries, #7 in America, and the comeback was complete.

That was 2001, and now in 2012 both Kylie Minogue and Baz Luhrmann are at interesting places in their careers. Kylie has released several albums since to varying levels of critical and commercial acclaim, but has remained a major commodity on the touring circuit and has branched out into various other arenas including a return to acting with Leos Carax's Holy Motors. This film about a man on a "24-hour odyssey" around Paris has just screen in Cannes and its critical reception will be important as to whether it receives any sort of local distribution. Positive reviews reflect its almost quirky, inpenatrability, so time will tell. I would hope it does because the first footage, a trailer, released day looks tantalising in its obscurity. The director of Pola X isn't exactly a big name on the arthouse circuit so, but maybe a local festival birth is what we should be anticipating rather than anything else. As for Minogue, she's seen briefly sporting a cropped hairstyle, a fragile demeanor, and singing a musical number (an original tune apparently) alongside the Seine, so if nothing else we've got some new iTunes material to look forward to! And a ballad no less. I expected the singer to be playing an exaggerated version of herself, but instead it looks like she's going dramatic. It will certainly be an interesting change of pace!

via AtTheCinema

Luhmann on the other hand has been his polarising, time-taking self since Moulin Rouge! can-canned its way to two Oscars and a a whole swag of other nominations and awards. Australia was probably his strangest film to date, but for all of its faults I still enjoyed it immensely. Only his second film since 2001, Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby has been a lightning rod for hyperbolic hysteria ever since the day it was announced. I have not read the novel that many say is the greatest piece of American literature ever written (there is an online version right here), so I guess I'm coming at this from a completely different angle, but I think it looks fabulous. As in it look fabulous and it looks fabulous. I'll always be on Team Baz and anybody expecting him to suddenly change his signature style just to appease literati were always going to be sorely mistaken.

Of course the problem with adapted such a famous piece of literature is that many will forget that this is not a book, but a movie. In doing so Luhrmann and his creative team have obviously turned the era's defining looks and imagery up the eleven. Much like he knew audiences would never want to see actors that looked like actual 1989 Parisian hookers dancing about in white smock cancan dresses in Moulin Rouge!, Luhrmann and costume designer/production designer Catherine Martin have give the look of The Great Gatsby a a shiny, kitschy make-over that fits perfectly into their oeuvre. The CGI looks a touch too cartoonish, almost like watching an advanced edition of Sim City, but I only really noticed that when it comes to looking at still images. In motion it looked fantastic, and the wideshots of 1920s New York City are divine. We can surely etch in Martin for Oscar nominations yet again.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Luhrmann has utilised 3D for this, but I can already see how it will work during, if little else, the party sequences that take up a large chunk of the trailer. I also don't think the trailer has shown enough of the actors to really get a hold on what they're doing (although Elizabeth Debicki gets a large amount of airtime and is impressive), but I feel there's enough here to temporarily lay any major worries to rest. As somebody who greatly enjoys Baz's style, and has done so over four films now, I was certainly under no illusion that he would suddenly bow to pressure to become a measured, tasteful director. The Great Gatsby, at least in these preliminary stages, certainly doesn't look like it will win the Australian any new fans, but I'm glad there's at least one man out there using the millions of dollars thrown at him by movie studios to do projects as truly out there as this. If little else, its visual opulence will be eye-popping on a big screen and a Christmas present worth unwrapping.

No comments: