What reception will 'Great Gatsby' get on Cannes' opening night?

I mean, look, said Baz Luhrmann, the cinematically manic auteur behind the new edition of “The Great Gatsby.” Who cares if his movie about obscene wealth and romantic illusions got mixed reviews in the U.S.? F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel received the same in its day.

One critic, director and co-adapter Luhrmann noted, gravely, called Fitzgerald a “clown." And said that the characters were "marionettes."

At the opening press conference Wednesday for the 66th Cannes Film Festival, Luhrmann mentioned that more copies of the novel were sold in a recent week (thanks largely to the Warner Bros. movie’s promotional tie-in machinery) than during Fitzgerald’s entire lifetime.

Typically the Cannes festival’s opening-night picture is an audience-friendly affair (last year’s was “Moonrise Kingdom”), featuring plenty of star wattage for red-carpet purposes. Such purposes are not incidental to the world’s most formidable and influential film festival.

Atypically for Cannes, and a bit of a glamour-dampener, “The Great Gatsby” has already opened in the U.S., albeit to a strong $55 million gross in its first five days.  The days leading up to the domestic release,  Luhrmann acknowledged, with  Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and others by his side, were “very nervous” indeed.

The director recounted a meeting with Warner Bros. brass, at a particularly vulnerable juncture in the lavishly budgeted film’s financing, in which he argued that “Gatsby” was a lot like another, earlier Warners title in its portrait of a mysterious loner nursing a broken heart. That film was “Casablanca.” Few, if any, in the press room saw that particular comparison coming.

DiCaprio worked with Luhrmann 17 years ago on “Romeo + Juliet.” Reading Fitzgerald as a young man, the actor said, he was “fascinated with Gatsby,” but re-reading it in preparation for the movie, he found it “no longer a love story,” but rather a “tragedy about a great Rockefeller, a great American who’d somewhere along the way…lost the sense of who he was.”

Luhrmann noted that Fitzgerald wrote much of “Gatsby” a few kilometers east of Cannes, while his wife, Zelda, was having an affair with a French pilot on the beach and thereabouts, near the site of the official “Gatsby” France premiere.  The screening at the Grand Lumiere Theatre will be followed by a dinner on the beach, promising a certain level of pre-recession swank and excess. But presumably without Fitzgerald’s undertow of loss and waste and heartbreak.

You can only be so faithful to a great novel if there’s a Cannes banquet involved.


Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Cannes Film Festival: Steven Spielberg heads jury
    Cannes Film Festival: Steven Spielberg heads jury

    “We’re always sitting in personal private judgment of the films we see,” Steven Spielberg said Wednesday, in Wednesday’s Cannes Film Festival press conference introducing this year’s nine-person jury headed by Spielberg.

  • Cannes 2013: Seen at the Carlton
    Cannes 2013: Seen at the Carlton

    CANNES, France -- While the Cannes Film Festival turns all the hotels on La Croisette, this city’s beachfront main street, into advertising sites for new and upcoming films, the pride of place is always reserved for the grand dame of hostelries, the Carlton.

  • Photos: Cannes at festival time
    Photos: Cannes at festival time

    It's the ultimate tourism season at Cannes on the French Riviera, as stars from all over the world gather to attend the 66th annual Cannes Film Festival. Here are some scenes as the city prepares for its guests.

  • Leonardo DiCaprio
    Leonardo DiCaprio

    "The Great Gatsby" star Leonardo DiCaprio appears at the Cannes Film Festival opening day press conference.

  • 'Welcome to Me' is highly gawkable
    'Welcome to Me' is highly gawkable

    “Why doesn’t it look like ‘Oprah’?” Alice (Kristen Wiig) asks about the production value of her recently launched, guest-free talk show. Responds one of the many employees who can’t believe this series is happening: “Because you ate a cake made out of hamburger and started crying.”

  • Even the outtakes are predictable in 'Hot Pursuit'
    Even the outtakes are predictable in 'Hot Pursuit'

    In February 2013, Melissa McCarthy starred in an unfunny, aggressive road movie (“Identity Thief”). Four months later, she was the wild card to Sandra Bullock’s straight arrow in an incredibly generic buddy cop comedy (“The Heat”). Opening June 5, McCarthy stars in the very funny “Spy” as Susan...

  • Jack Black immediately derails 'The D Train'
    Jack Black immediately derails 'The D Train'

    Hidden in the nagging onslaught of suck that is “The D Train” is a really good scene: Oliver Lawless (James Marsden), the former high school stud who moved from Pittsburgh to L.A. to become an actor, approaches Dermot Mulroney (playing himself), who’s in a bar and being treated like royalty in...

  • Rauner to aldermen: 'For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs'
    Rauner to aldermen: 'For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs'

    In an unusual and perhaps unprecedented speech, Gov. Bruce Rauner on Wednesday dropped in at City Hall and offered a time-tested political horse trade: support his controversial pro-business, anti-union agenda, and he'll help Chicago out of its financial free fall.