Top positive review
7 people found this helpful
This impressive film arrives on a solid, but unspectacular, blu ray transfer.
on 6 October 2013
This 1974 classic brilliantly captures Fitzgerald's icy tragedy of careless people and their impact on those doomed souls, foolish enough to love them. Redford is dazzling in the lead role and is splendidly supported by Farrow, Waterston and Dern. Jack Clayton does not put a foot wrong in his evocation of a superficial world of superficial people into which wander very human beings who are subsequently destroyed by what they experience.
Jay Gatsby - the complex and enigmatic self-made title character - is a hero of epic proportions, whose tragic flaw is the depth of his love for Daisy Buchanan. Like so many other of Fitzgerald's "heroes" (eg Dick Diver in " "Tender is the Night" etc etc) he pays a harsh price in his attempt to "save" the woman he adores and enter a social milieu which is far less meaningful than his own world - where love actually does exist and whose virtues of loyalty and caring are undervalued. As such the film is true to the book's theme - and is about a perverse hubris which both motivates two of the films central characters to enter a world of superficial glamour - but where exists no enduring values - and is directly responsible for their deaths. As a character says to Gatsby at the film's penultimate moment " You are better than all of them" - and of course he is.
The new blu ray transfer is satisfactory and produces the look of the original film quite well but be aware that the source material was deliberately shot soft, by award winner Douglas Slocombe, so that fine detail is not very pronounced. Still we are given more clarity than was available on the earlier SD DVD and the fabulous sets and flamboyant costumes and design are displayed with much higher levels of sumptuous detail, and visual irony, than we have previously experienced outside of the pages of the novel - although its famous reference to Gatsby's enormous library of un-opened books, is regretfully omitted in the film itself!
The audio transfer doesn't wow but it's certainly an improvement on the SD version too and most definitely the early VHS copies where - because of copyright problems - the evocative original score ( in which the song "What Will I Do" is so resonantly employed) was actually replaced by a utilitarian and meaningless musical soundtrack on that first commercially available transfer!
Yes, ultimately the film has barriers for some viewers. It is is long - it's cool ironic stance will not appeal to those looking for a traditional romance - and the unsympathetic characters and the deliberate portrayal of their "casual racism" may alienate some too. But if you accept that this is a decidedly bitter look at obsession, class, and prejudice which doesn't want to pull it's punches - and is true in spirit and intent to Fitzgerald's novel - for those looking for fine filmmaking - I think it will provide considerable interest and a profound - if desperately sad - emotional journey.