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Baz Luhrmann
Australia / USA, 2013

It has taken me a long time to appreciate Leo, but I can’t imagine a better Gatsby: golden and matte, anxious and smooth, obsessed and compelled. I know Nick is supposed to be the author figure (in the film especially), but Gatsby is the writer I want to watch: Gatsby the author of genre fiction, and through genre, of himself, even as the world and the other characters refuse to comply with the genre’s demands. This is the classic Quixotic tale, now almost wholly tragic; and though Tom and Daisy are supposedly the “careless people,” smashing up things and creatures, Gatsby’s willful commitment to plot over people puts his own creative talents somewhere on the Mr. Ripley spectrum. Are you really loving another person if you can’t see them as they are? Was your desire ever pure and corruptible, or was it always an instrument, a fetish? Gatsby feels and enacts the pleasure and frustration of genre fiction, where the plot is the engine and everything else is a drunken party or valley of ashes to be got through, skipped or skimmed. When you are reading the kind of story that Gatsby is writing, you think you want the Happily Ever After—you are racing to the resolution. But when the plot resolves the enchantment ends. Does the romance reader desire satisfaction or a state of craving? What contented glow could ever compare with a life illuminated by envious desire? Gatsby writes romance; Nick and Fitzgerald are the modernists who know its limits, but read and write it anyway, or wish they still could.