Magazine article Variety

Gatsby's Great Music Collection

Magazine article Variety

Gatsby's Great Music Collection

Article excerpt

Baz Luhrmann soundtrack promises

a mashup of contempo pop and period tunes

With The Great Gatsby, opening May 10, director Baz Luhrmann revisits the delirium of star-crossed romance evocative of his signature films Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001). And like those movies, specifically Moulin Rouge - a mashup of contemporary pop and movie musical tunes in a period setting - Gatsby promises a heady brew of sounds that define Luhrmann's at-times over-the-top aesthetic.

There are enough elements to fill a store: Craig Armstrong's original score as well as his arrangements for other artists featured in the soundtrack; music from Jay-Z that' more than a mere guest-artist contribution; songs specifically written and performed for the movie by the likes of Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Rey and the xx; found period and current music from such artists as Beyonce, Andre 3000, Jack White, and Louis Armstrong; reinterpreted Gershwin and Várese classics; and '20s jazz recorded by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra.

If it all seems more tailored to a musical than a period drama based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, it's the nature of a very musically minded filmmaker with an opera director's ear.

"(Luhrmann) likes to have as much choice as possible," says Armstrong, who also scored Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! "He's an artist who likes a very large palette of sound."

Based on the trailers, which initially featured rather tortured covers of U2's Love Is Blindness (White) and the Turtles' Happy Together (Filter), if there's a through line to all of this it's emotion with a capital E - the kind of emotion that's worn on Gatsby's sleeve, at least as played by Leonardo DiCaprio, as opposed the emotion held in check by Robert Redford in the 1974 version Gatsby.

The latest trailer features a cover of Amy Winehouse's Back to Black by Beyonce and Andre 3000 that pulses with an impending sense of doom, and a melancholic Young and Beautiful by Del Rey that speaks to Gatsby's sense of longing and the misbegotten notion that he can relive the past with the love of his life, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).

"I think the music in the trailers is indicative of the broadness of styles that we're applying in the film," says music supervisor Anton Monsted, who acknowledges the expectations that come with translating a widely admired literary work to the screen, in 3D no less, in such an audacious manner.

"I think part ofthat interpretation for Baz is how the music can speak to people either to make them feel like they're in a 1920s setting or help them feel the excitement the young people Fitzgerald writes about were feeling when they heard jazz, which was a forbidden music that their parents frowned upon just as parents frowned upon rock 'n' roll in the '50s."

Luhrmann spoke to Jay-Z about using hip-hop the way Fitzgerald used jazz. "Fitzgerald coined the phrase 'the Jazz Age', and I think Baz wanted to make a very specific point for the audience to say if that was the Jazz Age then we are very much living in the hip-hop age." Characters are distinguished by a musical theme, like a foxtrot for Daisy, or a New Orleans-style funeral march for Gatsby.

Even the novel's emblematic green light at the end of the Buchanans' dock in Long Island - which represents the romantic dream just beyond Gatsby's reach - is given musical dimension.

"Baz was keen on trying to find a distinctive sound for the green light," Armstrong says. …

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