It's a fickle world we live in, isn't it? One minute you're the champion of the world, the next you're being kicked and slapped all around the ring whilst the crowd cheer your swift fall from grace. And as the referee starts the count, your mind flashes back to that not-so-distant past where you were the one lapping up the applause of the baying crowd, light bulbs flashing all around you and victory in your heart. But how the victorious fall. For nowadays, with the bullying, bulked-up media, it only requires one well-placed punch to knock you down.
It's really quite sad if you think about it; not so long ago, Baz Luhrmann was the darling of Hollywood, a breath of fresh air in an increasingly formulaic industry. Not content with following cinema clichés and stereotypes, Luhrmann did his own thing. He took genre conventions and threw them out of the window, replacing them with an eclectic mix of the old and the new. Who ever thought Nirvana would find a home in the Moulin Rouge?
It was flourishes like that that set Baz Luhrmann apart from the crowd. He wasn't to be constrained by order or logic. If it felt right, it went in, regardless of what logic might dictate. But now Luhrmann lays beaten and bloodied on the floor, and for the exact same reasons he became so celebrated in the first place.
Nothing emphasises this better than a quick jaunt over to Rotten Tomatoes. Luhrmann's latest film, The Great Gatsby, scores a pretty lousy 48%, with the summation of all the reviews stating that it "emphasises visual splendor at the expense of its source material's vibrant heart". OK, fair point.
But oh wait, what's this? With a little sleuthing, you'll find that the Moulin Rouge! Rotten Tomatoes page boasts a confident 76%. Now, anyone who's seen Moulin Rouge! can attest to this particular critics summary: "A love-it-or-hate-it experience, Moulin Rouge is all style, all giddy, over-the-top spectacle". So it's all style and over-the-top is it? But isn't that the exact reason why said critics gave Gatsby such negative reviews?
Why are critics all of a sudden so intolerant of all Luhrmann's trademark razzmatazz? Could they be punishing him for making them sit through the hellish torture that was Australia? If they are, that's pretty understandable. But the most likely reason is the fact that it's been twelve years since Moulin Rouge! was released and, within those twelve years, the landscape of film has changed drastically.
Genres rise and fall in Hollywoodland faster than Chelsea managers and, whilst it would be a disservice to accuse Luhrmann of failing to adapt to these times, special effects and wacky gizmos are no longer the attractions they once were. They're everywhere. They're not exciting or exclusive anymore, and critics and crowds are demanding more.
It's evident within the modern superhero genre where Christopher Nolan's more thought-provoking Batman films have dominated over the more lightweight Marvel films, such as Captain America and Thor. Audiences aren't so easily distracted these days by shiny colours and slick cinematography. More and more, they crave inner beauty over outer beauty. And perhaps it is that Baz Luhrmann hasn't quite realised this yet.
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