I’ve never seen any film version of The Great Gatsby. I’ve read the book, and loved it. But none of the movie adaptations earned much respect; certainly not enough for me to seek them out.
Which is odd, because the book seems easy to adapt. It’s short. It’s almost entirely dialog and action. A screenwriter wouldn’t have to boil it down to its essence. F. Scott Fitzgerald already did that.
Perhaps the story has never found the right filmmaker. Baz Luhrmann directed the most recent version, and I suspect that’s part of its problem. Luhrmann’s work tends to be about surfaces, especially glamorous surfaces. He never seems interested in what’s beneath those surfaces. The Great Gatsby is about the dark, false current beneath those glamorous surfaces. I can’t imagine him doing a good job on this (and the reviews I read confirmed my suspicions).
I’ve been slowly going through the HBO series Entourage, which ran from 2004 through 2011. Call it a guilty pleasure. At one point in this Hollywood fiction, Martin Scorsese directs a new adaptation of Gatsby .
Now that could break the Gatsby movie curse. Scorsese could have made a film worthy of Fitzgerald’s prose.
So what other auteurs, living or dead, could have adapted The Great Gatsby and turned it into a great film?
Luis Buñuel comes to mind. He certainly knew how to make rich and self-important people look ridiculous. So did Charlie Chaplin–the world’s most popular filmmaker when the book was published. His version, of course, would have been a comedy. But whom would he play–Gatsby or Carraway?
Among living auteurs, Paul Thomas Anderson comes to mind. John Sayles could have done a great version in his prime 20 years ago, if he could have gotten a decent budget.
There must be others.