Revered works of art are the ripest for reimagining. Not only because, as Walter Benjamin argued, “recreating the value” of any original is preferable to dogmatic fealty to it, but because a classic text’s very timelessness renders it most invincible to the slings and arrows of outrageous reinterpretation.
Not so the translations themselves, as the calamitous critical (though not popular) response to Baz Luhrmann’s 3D film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has shown. Taking hyperbolic liberties with a canonical work has not been the prime grievance, nor could it be. Infusing the Roaring ‘20s with Beyonce, rap, and EDM, as Luhrmann does in Gatsby, is child’s play compared to Orson Welles’s staging of a fascist-era Julius Caesar and a voodoo Macbeth set in Haiti. What has called for Luhrmann’s head on a plate, rather, is that while Welles purportedly teased out topical relevance in Shakespeare’s grandiose vision, Luhrmann allegedly has buried the “great American novel” in a dung heap of stylistic pretension. Continue reading “The Great Gaspy: Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Citizen Kane’” »