Sunday, 16 November 2008

Back to Life, Baz to Reality

I like Baz Luhrmann films. I remember working as the producer of a film review show for a London TV station back in the 1990s. I received an invite to attend the preview of his version of Romeo and Juliet. I had no idea what to expect, but anticipated a somewhat saccharine movie.

At the time I liked to see at least one film a week about which I didn't read the PR blurb. It was fun sitting in a cinema auditorium, with no idea what was about to unfold. And since I was watching films before they'd made it to general release, I enjoyed the incredible privilege of not having friends or family spoil the plot for me. Oh no, that was my job....

I mention this because after a seven year hiatus, excepting the over the top, if remarkable, advert for Chanel, that in 2004 cost millions to produce, Baz is back.

His great epic, Australia, is due to open in the UK on Boxing Day, and has its world premiere next week. The only problem is - he hasn't finished editing it yet.

The press are having a field day over why the $120 million film hasn't been placed in the can and sent off for preview.

Only Oprah Winfrey and her audience have seen a cut of the film, and that was without all the special effects included.

Naturally, the rumour mills are working overtime. The main claim alleges that Fox has forced Luhrmann to change the ending from one that's tragic to one that's happy. 

Entertainment magazine Variety has been following the story. Oprah Winfrey has provided a behind-the-scenes video, which doesn't give away the plot, but provides a quick insight into the challenges facing a cast and crew of more than 300, who decamped into the Outback.

The Guardian features an interview with Baz Luhrmann, in which he explains what makes him produce films that go against the grain of contemporary thinking.

If the ending has been changed because of focus group feedback it'll be a real shame. However, if Luhrmann is making his alterations because of a desire to complete the narrative, in a way that he believes is artistically closer to the ideals he held dear, when he embarked on this adventure, then we should trust him to make the right call.

Critics are pointing out that Titanic et al did not have happy endings, but still went on to break Box Office records. If Australia has a narrative that offers a plausible ending at its conclusion, together with fine acting and lush cinematography, then the mood of the finale will not matter.

It's worth observing how even those at the top of their game can still feel the heat of indecision and doubt. Remember that the next time you find yourself stuck at a creative crossroads during A level coursework!


AliCrees said...

I like the title, very thoughtful!
Maybe you could show some of his films, or even better get him in to do a talk for us! He must have a good understanding of what his audience want to release something a long peroid of time after his last film, or very brave. Good luck to him, the question is, is he still on the beat? Or has he losed his film making skills after this draught of films!

Sacha van Straten said...

Hi Ali,

We'll have to wait until Boxing Day to answer your last question. Glad you liked the title. Do you know the song upon which I based it? General pop quiz - starter for 10...

I think Luhrmann has managed to work the Hollywood system and stay true so far to his own vision. It's that authenticity that seems to have been lost from much of Hollywood's output.

Luhrmann had wanted to make a biopic of Alexander the Great, but then found out that Olive Stone was doing the same thing. So, after some years of planning and preparation, he walked away from it. Also, he's probably wealthy enough that he can wait until conditions are right to make the movie he feels passionate about. What a wonderful luxury!

Max Warby said...

Soul II Soul - Back to life (Back to reality)..?!
Film sounds like it could be good yet i assume ideas have arose concerning he has lost his touch, after all he is weeks away without a final edit!
Looking forward to seeing if he's still got the magic!

Sacha van Straten said...

Hi Max,

Well done on correctly naming the song.

The trailers look great, but personally I wouldn't want the pressure of spending $120 million of someone else's money hanging over me!