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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

By Patrick Samuel • March 29th, 2014
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Paramount Pictures

Original release: March 29th, 1974
Running time: 144 minutes

Director: Jack Clayton
Writers: Francis Ford Coppola, Vladimir Nabokov, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Cast: Sam Waterston, Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Karen Black

The Great Gatsby

The 1920’s in America was a time of great change. It was an era marked by the social, artistic, and cultural dynamism which stood in stark contrast to the Victorian age and the despair the followed the Great War, but while jazz, the automobile, art deco, moving pictures and even Prohibition all helped to make it the Roaring Twenties, its decadence would soon grind to a halt with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression.

It’s a time we continue to look back on, either in literature or in film. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name was written around that time, so here we have a writer who was not only experiencing these great changes first hand, but also capturing that zeitgeist for us forever with every word, on every page. Published in 1925, it would be adapted as a motion picture twice by the time Jack Clayton would direct it again in 1974 from a screenplay written by Francis Ford Coppola.

Set in 1922, The Great Gatsby’s story unfolds in the later half of 1922. Narrated by Yale graduate and World War I veteran Nick Carraway (Sam Waterston) who’s just moved to New York to take a job, we learn that he’s renting a house next door to a mansion owned by of Jay Gatsby (Robert Redford), a mysterious millionaire who holds extravagant parties but never actually attends them. As he’s so rarely seen, there’s a lot of speculation and rumours about him flying around.

Not far from where Nick lives are his second cousin Daisy (Mia Farrow) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Bruce Dern). The pair aren’t as happily married as they appear. Tom has a girlfriend, Myrtle (Karen Black) and he has a way of spoiling the moment, either with his thoughtlessness or outbursts, as demonstrated when he hits her across the face in front of several guests at one of his parties, which he’s also taken Nick to.

The Great Gatsby

Later on when Nick attends one of Jay’s lavish parties, he gets the opportunity to finally meet the elusive man. To his surprise, Jay invites him out the next day and as he starts to learn more about him, he’s offered a job and theirs becomes a business relationship, much to Tom’s envy. Jay persuades Nick to invite him to his house to meet Daisy without her knowing, and without Nick realising the two have a long history together.

When Daisy sees him standing behind her in the mirror, it’s as if all the years apart melt away in that instant. He looks at her, she looks at him and it’s clear these two have a lot of catching up to do while Nick sits outside. As we wait to see if this pair of The Great Gatsbystar-crossed lovers make it to a happy end or if other events will continue to interrupt them, The Great Gatsby emerges as a film with sumptuous imagery evoking how high society lived, wined, dined and indulged itself with all the riches and spoils at its disposal.

Its stars are beautifully captured on screen, including Sam Waterston and Mia Farrow, but when has Robert Redford ever not looked good? What’s missing though is passion to carry the story. In the scene where Jay and Daisy meet in Nick’s house, this passion’s hinted at but once the scene’s over, the film falls back into what feels like merely re-telling Fitzgerald’s story rather than making it its own. There are moments when the dialogue flows but it never really captivates. An example of this is early on when Jay tells Nick his life story as they drive along in his car.

Despite Sam Waterston’s narration, The Great Gatsby never comes alive or brims with mystery in the way we might say Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) or Coppola’s The Godfather Part II (1974) do. In spite of these flaws though, it’s a marvellous film with superb cinematography and music, and the underlining theme of people putting material wealth before those they actually love and care for is still apparent beneath its extravagant surface.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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