As the rain falls down on the soggy but star-studded premiere of The Great Gatsby in Cannes tonight (15 May), director Baz Luhrmann is speaking out about the film’s mixed critical reception.
At a festival press conference before the premiere, the Australian director told reporters that he anticipated a mixed response to his adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. And so far the critics haven’t disappointed: one group have praised the film for its “exuberant, operatic, roaring approach to its material” while others see it as “a crass, tin-eared rendering of F Scott Fitzgerald’s precisely tuned text”. Reuters quotes him saying that “I never get one of those big, high critics scores… I knew [the criticism] would come”.
In fact, mixed critical reviews nothing new to Luhrmann, given the response to his previous films. “Look, I made Moulin Rouge. And Romeo + Juliet, and Strictly Ballroom for that matter, and they never got those high critics’ scores.” What he wants people to focus on is the box office receipts and what he anticipates as audience reaction proving the critics wrong. “I just care that people are going out and seeing it. I really am so moved by that”. He’s also quick to point out that the novel itself received a poor critical response when it was released in 1945, and that in the last week alone it has sold more copies than during its author’s life.
Both Luhrmann and Gatsby co-writer Craig Pearce describe how relevant the story is for today’s audience. “It was us, where we are now, this great mirror to reflect back on us”, Luhrmann said. Pearce adds: “It had a resonance today that was so strong in terms of what it was saying about the financial climate and the global financial crisis.”
The Great Gatsby is currently in cinemas in the US and opens in the UK on 17 May.