Edge of excess

Updated: 2013-09-03 07:17

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

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Edge of excess

 Edge of excess

Top and above: Scenes from director Baz Luhrmann's latest movie The Great Gatsby. Photos Provided to China Daily

 Edge of excess

Director Baz Luhrmann in Beijing to promote his 3-D movie The Great Gatsby. Jiang Dong / China Daily

The Great Gatsby brings an all-American tale of decadence, idealism and social upheaval that Chinese audiences may find familiar, Liu Wei reports.

What relates Chinese audiences today to characters in America's best novel of the 1920s?Director Baz Luhrmann says the connection is the zeal for money. His 3-D extravaganza The Great Gatsby, adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, premiered in China on Aug 30.The promotion tour to Beijing is Luhrmann's second time in 10 years. The tall buildings "literally shooting up to the sky" impressed him as one of the testimonies that the country is in an economic boom."I really love to see," he says, "on a mass level, what Chinese people actually think of America's greatest novel written in the time that pretty much reflects where China is now - in the sense that China has found an extraordinary moment of economic growth and changes, like what happened to the United States in the 1920s."

Luhrmann's picture closely follows the novel's plot, and has visualized the famous Fitzgerald narratives such as "men and girls came and went like moths among the whispering and the champagne and the stars" with exceptional taste.

But Luhrmann thinks there are "bigger ideas" behind this lavish, tragic romance between an underdog-turned-billionaire and the lady who never belongs to his class.

And he believes those ideas resonate with his Chinese audiences.

China has risen to be an important territory for Hollywood blockbusters, some of which has even grossed more in the country than in the North America. For example, Pacific Rim has raked in $100 million in China, while its domestic box office in America is $98 million.

The Great Gatsby was first released in America this summer, which Luhrmann describes as "a jungle", confronting franchises like Iron Man 3. He worried about box office, but the film, with mixed reviews, has grossed $144 million.

"We are already a big financial hit," Luhrmann says. "It is not like we need China to pay the bill. It would be great if it is a great break out - fantastic - but what I am really interested is how the audience think of the story."

So he registered on Sina Weibo, the local version of Twitter, to get feedback, on Aug 20. In the first 48 hours he had 10,000 followers, and now he has 280,000.

"I am happy to see that many of them see the big ideas in this movie," says Luhrmann. "You don't make money just for money's sake. Life must have some purpose, some meaning."

The thrilled 50-year-old is seriously considering a Chinese film, telling a press conference the day before the film premiered in Beijing that "I'm in meetings while I'm here".

"I take a very long time to decide what films to make, but I'm seriously thinking about a movie set in both China and the West. China is an overwhelmingly exciting place, and I want to participate in what's happening," he says.

"I am getting old, and I might only have one more movie left in me."

Contact the writer at liuw@chinadaily.com.cn.

(China Daily USA 09/03/2013 page10)