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Will Baz Luhrmann's 3-D 'Great Gatsby' Find New Intimacy in Film?

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood January 17, 2012 at 1:14PM

When we learned that Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" was going to be done in 3-D, we weren't happy. Now, with the success of Martin Scorsese's 3-D "Hugo," it seems a 3-D "Great Gatsby" would have indeed been much safer in his hands. The New York Times now has a defense piece up for Luhrmann and the film...
"The Great Gatsby"
WARNER BROS. "The Great Gatsby"

When we learned that Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" was going to be shot in 3-D, we weren't happy. Anne Thompson stated: "What's happening is that filmmakers are trying to convince studios to back riskier films by offering to go 3-D, which brings premium ticket prices. Am I the only one who has more confidence in Scorsese making this work than Luhrmann? I wish they'd both call off the 3-D squad, now."

Now, with the superb use of 3-D in Scorsese's "Hugo," a 3-D "Great Gatsby" might indeed been much safer in his hands (especially with his fave leading man Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role). The New York Times has posted a defense for Luhrmann and the film (due Christmas 2012). Warner Bros.' distribution chief Dan Fellman says: "Everyone has strong, and generally opposing, opinions, when you mention 3-D, or ‘The Great Gatsby,’ or Baz Luhrmann.”

Exactly, so why play the slot machine? (It's taking millions, not quarters.) There are high expectations laid out for "Gatsby," which has farther to fall if it doesn't meet them. We're ready to root for it, but we also remember "Australia," and all the 3-D pictures that are best forgotten.

If Luhrmann's 3-D “Gatsby” succeeds, writes the NYT's Michael Cieply, "it may open the door to a new generation of sophisticated movie dramas that will match the spectacle value" animation, action and "elaborate spectacle" films that make up Hollywood's 3-D menu. It also has the potential to give the Oscar race what it's missing: "the heat of a film that decisively breaks a barrier." (Oscar's 2012 frontrunner, "The Artist"--charming as it is--goes backward, not forward.)

Luhrmann tells the NYT that the special effect in "Gatsby" is "seeing fine actors in the prime of their acting careers tearing each other apart,” and says 3-D allows for a "new intimacy in film."

While considering shooting "Gatsby" in 3-D, Luhrmann watched the 3-D version of Alfred Hitchcock's "Dial M for Muder" (as Scorsese did). Watching it was like theater, he says. Fellman argues that the technique allows audiences to be "immersed in the lifestyle of Gatsby," and "in his world, moving from room to room." He and Luhrmann both think F. Scott Fitzgerald would approve.

RealD's Michael Lewis refers to what Luhrmann is doing--essentially letting 3-D sit at the big kids' table-- as “the final stage in the maturing of the medium.” We will soon see.

This article is related to: Digital Future, Box Office, Directors, Headliners, Drama, Genres, Period

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.