By Donald Clarke
The 66th Cannes Film Festival began last night with a gala screening of Baz Luhrmann's much-promoted adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby .
Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays the title character, was on hand to wave at crowds gathered beneath grey Mediterranean skies. Pumped up with contemporary pop songs, edited at a furious pace, the indigestibly glossy film has - unusually for an opening film at Cannes - already gone on general release in the United States.
DiCaprio is well cast as the American dreamer who turns out to be less well-bred than he claims. But Luhrmann's patented blend of bombast and camp spectacle (enhanced by eye-popping 3-D) is not well suited to an adaptation of such a delicately balanced American classic. Reviews have been lukewarm in the US, but box office has been strong.
"The truth is, it is a very tricky undertaking," DiCaprio told The Irish Times recently. "Everyone has their own verdict on The Great Gatsby . I can't tell you how many people have told me it's their favourite book of all time. There's not many projects you're a part of where people have that expectation going into it."
Luhrmann, whose Moulin Rouge! debuted in Cannes over a decade ago, admitted the lengthy production had taken its toll on his psyche. He recalled some advice an older Australian director once passed his way. "Peter Weir, when I was very young, said directing a film is the closest thing to war that there is," he said. "There are very few situations where one person has to make all the decisions. I thought: what's he talking about? But it is like that."
The real action kicks off today when the official competition begins with a screening of Jeune & Jolie , the latest from prolific French director Franois Ozon.
Other pictures competing for the Palme d'Or, the festival's biggest prize, include Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra, a study of Liberace featuring Michael Douglas; and Nicholas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives , that director's follow-up to the cult hit Drive .
Much press attention will also come the way of the Coen brothers' Inside LLewyn Davis . The American directors' latest work stars Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake in a comic drama set among the progenitors of the folk boom in 1960s Greenwich Village.
Irish interest manifests itself in the form of Ruair Robinson's Last Days on Mars . The young director's debut feature - a science fiction drama starring Liev Schreiber - plays in the prestigious Directors' Fortnight strand on Monday.
"Being selected for the Directors' Fortnight acknowledges that this is more of a auteur piece than a slice of high-budget industrial cinema," said Brendan McCarthy, producer of the picture. The festival ends with the awards ceremony on May 26th.
Originally published by Donald Clarke.
(c) 2013 Irish Times. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.
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