What Went Wrong With… Baz Luhrmann?

A caricature of Baz Luhrmann against a floral chintz background

Baz Luhrmann is an overrated director responsible for some of the most aimless and frivolous films ever to grace our screens. With only five films to his name in over twenty years, it is strange that both quantity and quality is lacking from his portfolio. Following each immense gap, it is even stranger that his next movie is somehow worse than the last, and yet Hollywood seems to lap up everything he makes. In fact you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking the only reason Luhrmann makes movies is so that his wife can stealthily scoop all the Costume and Production Design awards.

Baz Luhrmann’s style is akin to Pitof & Zack Snyder on amphetamines, and sitting down to one of his films is like being forced to watch a production from an atrocious Theatre Camp… with the emphasis on camp. His over-the-top gilded and super-decorated aesthetic is so nauseatingly tacky, and his choice of song so clamorous, that the end result is sensory overload strangely coupled with tedium and boredom.

Moulin Rouge! was the most horridly loud yet soulless pieces of entertainment since the Brothers Gibb released Main Course. With its cheap-looking sets, lousy acting, to its horribly juxtaposed music, the whole affair was a sphincter-clenchingly embarrassing experience similar to stumbling through Anne Summers on poppers. Baz’ ability of getting absolutely the worst acting out of even the stalwarts of Hollywood, must have taken some kind of special talent that only he knows the secret to, and convincing the likes of Jim Broadbent to appear in such twaddle must be up there in the annals of arm-twisting.

In the nightmarish noughties, Moulin Rouge! was drooled-over by various award shows, and was even nominated for eight Oscars. With all the undeserved praise from the pompous media during this trashy decade, the public seemed happy to consume Luhrmann’s pabulum; even though every ingredient from Christina Aguilera’s “Lady Marmalade” to the tasteless visuals, was in reality completely unpalatable.

But if you thought Moulin was the epitome of chintz; you were wrong. Last year The Great Gatsby was released, and as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s cadaver rotated in its Maryland grave, the critics and fans seemed to glaze over yet another cinematic catastrophe. With editing even more frantic than the composer’s gestures from the opening of Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby contained some of the most hasty camera-work outside of a “Found Footage” film, coupled yet again by middle-of-the-road music; this time courtesy of Kanye West and Jay-Z. With its crummy direction, chaotic cutting, and crap script, Luhrmann’s ternion of trash had the ability to give the viewer an eye-ache, ear-ache, and arse-ache simultaneously.

The Great Gatsby seemed to be the bastard child of The Aviator and Speedracer with its synthetic brightness and lousy compositing that easily rivalled that of Moulin Rouge! The inclusion of bland and insipid actors like Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire just made the whole experience even more torturous. It was quite ironic that someone like Amitabh Bachchan was in something so Bollywood-esque outside of India and yet, despite the role of Meyer Wolfsheim being ethnically miscast, Bachchan did a better American accent than the two Aussie milk-and-water hacks Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke, a tedious tag-team fresh from annoying everybody in Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty.

With his abandoned adaptation of Alexander The Great and The not-so Great Gatsby, it is quite funny that Baz Luhrmann has made two attempts at making something with “Great” in the title, and yet his filmography is far from superb. If you are someone who hasn’t been subjected to Luhrmann’s slipshod shite, then count yourself lucky. The only reason to watch his ocular offensiveness is if you’ve ever wondered what it would look like if a middle-aged man sexually abused a box of Turkish Delights on a Vaudeville stage. If not, you should stay well clear of a Baz Luhrmann creation. That being said, it’s always entertaining to watch this old hack pouting on the red carpet as he channels Zoolander‘s Blue Steel.

Old Sport.

7 replies »

  1. I’m taking over your comment section sorry lol but I just can’t stop reading and cosigning – got yourself an addict and a superfan.

    Thank you for watching these unwatchable movies and listening to all the unlistenable music of the late so we don’t have to. I’ll take your word for it. I still refuse to watch this tripe – I’ve seen previews and got the taste of the soundtrack and the visual – no, thanks, don’t need the book ruined for me. I can only imagine what they had done to the original material that was subtle and brilliantly understated – Hollywood to subtlety is what Nazism is to tolerance (sorry, I’m tired and can’t think of a clever analogy so this will have to do).

    P.S. Joel Edgerton absolutely ruined Black Mass for me, I can’t believe that that inept mumbling mouthbreathing twatwaffle was (is?) being unanimously praised for his “performance”. His presence, charisma, charm, acting ability and IQ equal those of a sponge. Fuck him.

    • I haven’t seen Black Mass yet, but I’m not surprised that Edgerton ruined it. Joel Edgerton and Jason Clarke are two of the dullest most overrated Actors out there, both of them made The Great Gatsby even worse than it already was.

      Thanks for the support, and keep those comments coming!

    • Thanks again and will do, you and your site are absolutely fucking brilliant! Keep the awesome articles coming.

      Would be interesting to see what your take on Black Mass is, it left me feeling underwhelmed, may be it’s just me? I felt like they could do a lot more with the material and the subject. And Joel seemed to have ruined the movie just for me, everyone else was raving about him. I had to watch the movie twice just to make sure. His character was not supposed to be likeable, I thought may be it was intentional, if so – he is a superb actor as every time he appeared on the screen I wanted to throw something at it 😂 Then again, Depp’s character was quite loathsome as well and Depp did not elicit that reaction. So had to be Joel.

      As for Gatsby, I am not going to watch it. It’s hard to resist a movie when everyone around you is gushing about it. You kind of want to watch it just to see what all the hype is about. I got suckered into watching Django that way. It was odd. After the movie ended I sat there for an hour having a “what the fuck did I just watch” reaction. Slavery 101 Trivialised. Is it me or were all of the characters unlikeable and one-dimensional? I wanted to like Foxx’s and Waltz’s characters but one was so dumbed down and devoid of personality and another so patronising and portrayed as superior that they made it really hard. Then I kept getting distracted thinking why Kerry Washington character’s name was spelled Broom-hilda and so on. And the movie is so unmemorable I can barely recall any plot details or lines. I was expecting something like that from the previews and I have the similar expectations for Gatsby – for it to be crap, so I’m trusting my gut and your word on this one.

  2. I enjoyed this very much. I’m two minds whether to go and hate-watch Elvis, the new Luhrman movie which I have zero doubt will be a compete turkey. Gatsby was astonishingly bad although not quite as bad as Australia his “epic” epic flop. If Baz didn’t regard himself as a genius I’d be more tolerant but he is completely insufferable.

    Yet the fact remains he di make two great movies. Strictly Ballroom is a landmark in Australasian cinema and a firm favourite. Romeo and Juliet was also a triumph but then he started to believe his own publicity. Essentially he’s a music video director, he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a script, he can’t write a a three dimensional character to save his life.

    • Thanks. Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic looks atrocious. By the looks of things there’s some good-old Hollywood revisionism in there to make Presley look progressive whereas arguably, the only black people around him were making him fried banana sandwiches. This movie looks like it’ll make masses of cash for all those involved and wipe-out Public Enemy’s “The sucker was simple and plain, Motherfuck him and John Wayne” line in one fell swoop. It might be a huge success but it doesn’t deserve to be. Hopefully it’s the next Cats.

  3. I kinda thought he was a corny director sure Moulin Rouge was good for it’s time but he does the same thing every damn time same as Tarantino and Nolan nothing new or different.

  4. Brilliant assessment of Baz Luhrmann’s atrocious ouvre. If the grotesque Mr. G from “Summer Nights High” was given a hundred million bucks to adapt his musical about the overdose of a drug addled school girl, it would turn out just like one of Bazzaz creations. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if Chris Lilley based his Mr. G character upon Mister B himself!??!

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