Watching the trailer for the Leonardo DiCaprio/Carey Mulligan movie “The Great Gatsby” today (the movie comes out at Christmas time) it struck me that this is sort of the hip-hop version of the slim but celebrated F. Scott Fitzgerald novel of the ’20s. Its thumping, modern soundtrack, and what appears to be a hard-edged, hyper-stylized vision of the dissipated side of New York society in 1922 may work.
Then again, are we guilty again of viewing the past through the lens of the present, as if it’s the only way a work of art has merit? The 1974 movie version of “Gatsby,” starring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford, was ethereal, romantic and moved at a stately pace, as hushed as the lush lawns outside Gatsby’s Long Island mansion. That vision of the Roaring ’20s tale made sense in the context of 1974, when pop music was going through a particularly romantic, Philly soul moment, and movies depicted the ’20s and ’30s as nostalgic and sweet.
But do such versions age well? Will the new “Gatsby” look dated in a year or two, not quite an accurate representation of the ’20s, but more a snapshot of 2012 and its culture and concerns?
There was no such problem with the first “Great Gatsby” film, made in 1926, when the flapper look hadn’t faded yet.
I thought of the different way the generations view things when I saw that Tony D’Annunzio’s Grande Ballroom documentary is being screened again nearby — June 1 at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor, as part of the Cinetopia Film Festival.
I have friends who were Grande regulars, who like the film, and clearly D’Annunzio has passion for his subject. But “Louder Than Love” is a Soundgarden song …and the filmmaker interviewed Lemmy of Motorhead and others who had no direct link to Detroit’s fabled 1960′s rock palace, still moldering up on Grand River Ave.
It’s a way in to the story for younger generations, to understand why hearing about the Grande’s history is important. But are we giving history short shrift?