Softly lit garden parties, sepia-toned photographs and tattered, faded memories of Jazz Age Manhattan: this, my friends, is not the New York City on display in Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.” If you’ve seen so much as a poster for the film, you know that it’s full of lush color, bright lights and all the vibrancy of a modern metropolis filled with energetic young things—and according to Catherine Martin, costumer and directorial spouse, that was entirely on purpose.
“Baz’s biggest thing was that he did not want a nostalgic New York,” she explained of the film’s unique visual flair, which you can see in everything from the costumes to the cars to the neon debauchery of the sets. “He did not want a New York that felt kind of historical; he wanted it to feel as immediate and modern and visceral as it would have felt to Scott and Zelda [Fitzgerald], and all the characters in the book.”
Basically, seeing this movie means seeing 1920s New York as it would have appeared to someone who lived there then—and not through the cloudy, nostalgic rose-colored remove of a person looking back from a century in the future. Which, says Catherine, is meant to help audiences identify better with characters who they’ve only ever known from a distance:
“We wanted to be true to the period, but at the same time give a contemporary audience a window into the world, so they understood who [these] people were.”
Are you ready to immerse yourself in the big, loud, colorful immediacy of Gatsby’s New York?