′Gatsby′ speaks to Europeans′ money woes | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 16.05.2013
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'Gatsby' speaks to Europeans' money woes

It was a glittering start to the world's most important film festival. Actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan brought A-list clout to the star-studded premiere of director Baz Luhrmann's long-awaited film.

Film stars navigated a rain-drenched red carpet carrying very unglamorous umbrellas for the European premiere of "The Great Gatsby" on Wednesday.

Based of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel, the film tells the tale of a hedonistic life of riches and partying, dreams of material wealth, fame and happiness in superficially scenic locations.

That suits Cannes, a magical dream machine of world cinema, to a tee. Organizers couldn't have chosen a more perfect film to open this year's festival with.

Party time

Straight after the premiere, champagne corks popped as the US film production company Warner Bros. welcomed 600 select guests from the inner circle of the film industry to a $1.3-million party.

"The Great Gatsby" is a modern classic of world literature, a love story - but above all, a cautionary tale about the American Dream.

A scene from Baz Luhrmann's film The Great Gatsby

The lavishly produced film captures the hedonistic excesses of the rich and the beautiful

Like the book, the film tells the story of a wealthy and secretive young man living in a house fit for a king on the coast of Long Island. He throws wild parties, partly to win the heart of a married woman with whom he is infatuated.

Where the man known only as "Gatsby" got his money isn't revealed until the very end of the story, though rumors of his connections to the murky underworld circulate in Fitzgerald's tale of love and riches, jealousy and murder.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan in a scene from Baz Luhrmann's film The Great Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan in the film

First published in 1925, "The Great Gatsby" was a groundbreaking piece of literature exposing just how greedy people are for money and what they're prepared to risk to get it.

The book has been adapted for the silver screen on three previous occasions, most famously in 1974 with Robert Redford playing the lead roll.

Attracted by the book's continuing relevance, Australian director Baz Luhrmann has placed his bets on a new version. "We wanted the film to feel like how it would have felt to read the novel in 1925," the director told reporters in Cannes.

Classic goes pop

Luhrmann's film exploits the public's continuing fascination with the character of Gatsby while breathing new life into the story. Although the plot stays true to the book's narrative set in 1920s New York, the director has added a number of modern twists.

Music for the film is provided by US rapper Jay-Z, his wife Beyoncé and other chart toppers including Lana Del Rey. "Jay said that music is a star in the film so I think there is a great African-American presence in this film and I am very, very grateful for it," Luhrmann said.

The film itself is made up of hundreds of densely packed film sequences switching between wild camera journeys and countless special effects. And there's an added bonus - everything was filmed in 3D.

A scene from Baz Luhrmann's film The Great Gatsby

Director Baz Luhrmann pictured on set during the filming of "The Great Gatsby"

"We wanted to allow people to feel what it would've felt like to live in that incredibly modern time, when the world was being born and everyone was so young and so beautiful and so drunk and so crazy and so rich and living like that," the film's scriptwriter Craig Pearce said.

Pearce also described the fastidious research into the era carried out by the production team in New York. Switch the word "bonds" for "hedge-funds" and it's clear why Luhrmann's film is still so relevant today.

"In my estimation, Fitzgerald predicts the crash of 1929 in a book he wrote in 1925. He can tell there's something fundamentally corrupt in the fabric of society," the director explained.

Luhrmann's version of "The Great Gatsby" is evidently a metaphor for the most recent financial crisis.

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Cinema stars flock to Cannes

Critical reception

In Cannes, the initial press screening of the film ahead of the premiere provoked lukewarm reactions. Reviews in the US, where the film is already being screened in cinemas, have generally been negative.

But that didn't dampen the mood of the film's stars on the red carpet in Cannes. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and director Baz Luhrmann were all in attendance and the sudden downpour of rain didn't deter fans from screaming for autographs.

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