For the last few months whilst being without a job I have made it my business to go to the cinema once a week on a Tuesday during which I get to see films for half price.
It may be a surprise but these 2 hours or so at the cinema are the only time I actually have to do what I want. The rest of the time is taken up job-hunting, trying to set up a business, writing and keeping the house and garden tidy which with two guests coming and going and often checking out keeps me surprisingly busy.
Since March I have been to see several films. I have always liked going to the cinema even if I don’t necessarily like the people who go to the cinema. In the last decade cinemas have tried to make cinema only to be visited with a large group of friends, all gorging on extortionate and often noisy to consume snacks whilst chattering through the movie and checking the mobile phone every ten minutes.
Although I love going to the cinema with a select friend or three, I am more than happy to go on my own. We all go to shops on our own, many of us go to a tea or coffee shop on our own or going to the gym or exercise outside on our own so why not go to the cinema on our own? Most people are happy watching TV or a DVD on their own too.
At 11am at the cinema, a very exclusive crowd turn up. They are all literate, they can watch a film like adults perhaps because they are adults and there aren’t very many of us. I often have the auditorium pretty much to myself with one or two exceptions. No-one blocks my view and I get more out of an average film under such ideal conditions than from a blockbuster in a packed out noisy cinema on a thursday night or saturday afternoon.
Guess what? We as complete strangers even sometimes talk about the film afterwards and no-one says the words “you know” or “like” or “innit”. Even amongst the unemployed people or losers like myself. Here I count unemployed loser as any man between 25-60 in daylight hours whose bum I can see when he leans over the counter to enter his card payment number into the machine. As I pay in cash and am well dressed, I am simply between jobs.
I’ve seen a number of films in the last month or two and have a wide taste in movies. ‘The Place Behind The Pines’ was really good if a little long. ‘Olympus Has Fallen’ was surprisingly good whilst some GI Joe sequel was rather poor. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ was I thought, fantastic. However, equally as fantastic or perhaps better in its own way was The Great Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby was originally written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and tells a tale about New York society in the 1920’s; its corrupt nature, wild excesses, murders, parties and plot twists that make it obvious that though the years may pass, one generation of people is pretty much as messed up as its predecessors and successors.
Whilst Gatsby is a classic of American literature, to me I had barely heard of it. That it was a classic is all I knew of it. I went to school in the U.K. in the late 1980’s at a time when it was thought improper to teach children classics. Apart from one Charles Dickens tale I learnt no Shakespeare or Wordsworth let alone any European or American classics. We just had a few WW1 poems and papers to write on why a particular group of convicted IRA bombers were innocent and why Euthanasia should be legalised. So I guess in many ways I am self-taught and the first thing I did when I went to University was read as many of the classics and philosophical works as I could. When City commuters reading their London Times newspaper would look down at my tabloid Daily Mirror newspaper, I would put it away and get out Aristotle, Mills or Jean Jacques Rousseau and make them squirm in their seats.
It’s always a pleasure to come across a new classic though due to time limitations it is normally by way of films rather than books though I have several books of quotations which come in handy for looking brainy or insulting someone without their knowing, depending on how my mood takes me.
I went in to The Great Gatsby knowing absolutely nothing about it except that many critics thought it to be less than perfect whilst many viewers loved it; were it ever so.
Without giving it all a way, the story is about a wealthy Mid-West American man who lives in a large palatial home in New York by the sea in an area known for its ‘new money’. A young aspiring bond broker moves into a little cottage next door. He is cousin to a beautiful young lady who lives across the bay and who is married to the richest man from Chicago. This rich guy is a racist, bigot and frequents brothels and he tries to get out young bond-broker into the high-life.
The bondbroker, Nick Carraway, notices that his neighbour frequently has these huge parties to which the great and the good attend but no-one knows who he is or what he looks like though due to his great wealth it is assumed Mr Gatsby must be a murderer, conman or the cousin of the German Kaiser.
Nick gets an unheard of personal invite to one of these parties and is astounded at the wild events there and when he meets Mr Gatsby it is surprising that Gatsby doesn’t seem to take much enjoyment from them. It turns out that Gatsby once had a thing for Nicks cousin Daisy before WW1 but for various reasons wasn’t able to marry her back then. The thing is, he has a thing for Daisy and for all these years he has been holding these wild parties hoping Daisy might pop by but she is about the only wealthy New Yorker who doesn’t.
Nick is the go between who gets Gatsby and Daisy back together. Daisy almost cries when she meets Gatsby, both because of her happiness and also her sadness that she married a second best choice. Whilst Gatsby has led his whole life to get to this point of winning Daisy, it seems she is to settled on an easy life of an aristocrat even though she knows she is being treated badly by her husband.
Beyond that I can’t say what happens, it would spoil the film.
What I can say is that I enjoyed this film tremendously. Baz Luhrmann is known for his extravagance and I remember how much I enjoyed his modern take on Romeo and Juliet. The Great Gatsby is just so lavish. The sets are great, the music amazing and he cleverly uses some modern music and styles to help link us to the 1920’s. I know some people who read the book don’t like his interpretation but as I said, I haven’t and so I did!
It is rare that I get so engaged in a film and feel whisked along with Nick in the movie. It felt like I lived that summer. Cinema is a visual media and yet so few films make full use of this but this film is breathtaking.
The sound track is amazing and it is partly due to my friend Alexandra mentioning it in her blog here that I went to see the film in the first place.
The first half of the film is like a blockbuster for adults… there are no superheroes or explosions here. Just hundreds of extras and awesome sets.
The second half of the film is much more personal and much of this is down to Leonardo Di Caprio. He is really proving to be maturing into a fine actor. He makes a great Gatsby, mixing this self assured self made man with someone who is besotted by Daisy, herself played by a wonderful Carey Mulligan. Joel Edgerton gives a very strong performance as rich, cheating, bigotted but still boring husband Tom Buchanan.
As things begin to unfold for Gatsby the story really tenses up and during the scene when Gatsby plan for Daisy to tell her husband she is leaving him, it gets so tense I almost expect her husband Tom to push her out of the window. I’m obviously not the only one who felt tense as Mr Gatsby cracks up as well and from then, things can never be the same.
Though I had a feeling it wouldn’t have a totally happy ending, I must admit with 15 or 20 minutes before the end of the film I didn’t see how it would finish and even when “the event” happens that sets in motion the climax, I didn’t realise just how important this would be. So I was quite shocked and I liked that feeling. It’s nice to have a plot in a film rather than a string of barely connected events. Not that Gatsby is a love-story but it was nice to see a unique ending to that aspect in such a film too.
The Great Gatsby is to me a special film, it really takes people back to when they were younger and it seems anything was possible. This film puts you into Nicks shoes. Part of you is breathless at what he sees and part of you just want everything to go well. Gatsby really is the most optimistic of men.
Is Daisy worthy of him? There’s no doubt they both love each other but she loves her contemptible husband too and he her. However its hard not to feel that Gatsby wasted his time. She loves being loved but is there any more?
Having watched The Great Gatsby, I can now see why it is considered a classic story. Whilst the film may not have all the intricacies of the novel, I can’t really see any of the complaints some critics have of it. Yes the film is brash and fantastical but then so is Gatsby. I found there were plenty of nuances to keep me happy and I certainly picked up the subtleties that the critics claimed weren’t present in the movie.
Is it jarring to have Jay Z and Beyonce in a 1920’s film? Not really, they and others are only audible for a few seconds and to me it really sets the mood and there is plenty of period music too. Besides if 21st century music shouldn’t be in this film then Gladiator shouldn’t have classical styled music that wasn’t invented for at least 1500 years afterwards and Lawrence of Arabis should be accompanied by hand drums and Arabian reed-flute music.
I loved it all, the story, the surprises, the sets, the actors, the visual impact and excitement and the music. Lana Del Reys themed single is heard in parts several times through the film and its moody, brooding bitter-sweet reminisces fit The Great Gatsby perfectly.
If you’ve seen the film, what did you think of it? Would you ever go to the cinema on your own?
For those of you who have seen/read the book or don’t mind being spoiled, see below for a nifty who’s who poster for The Great Gatsby.