Today, September 17th, we celebrate Baz Luhrmann’s 53rd birthday. For all we know, he might be one of those people who doesn’t like to celebrate his own birthday, but here at Fandom, we love all things Baz, so we have tons to celebrate.
The work is unmistakable; his productions are aesthetically lush, textured collages doused in romanticism. From Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge to The Get Down and The Great Gatsby, A Luhrmann production will prominently feature detailed sets and costumes, lovesick protagonists and characters who strive to get the most from their lives.
When describing his vision for making Romeo + Juliet as true to Shakespeare as possible, Luhrmann explained that Shakespeare was a “relentless entertainer and a user of incredible devices and theatrical tricks to ultimately create something of meaning and convey a story.” This is an idea that seems to be at the heart of everything he makes, with each new production, the Baz Luhrmann style becomes more and more recognizable.
From the Stage to the Screen and Back Again
Luhrmann spent most of the 1980s acting in Australian and British theater, television and film productions. Strictly Ballroom, his first film as director, hit the independent movie scene hard in 1992 and became one of the most successful Australian films of all time. Since then he’s only directed four films. That’s it. Five films in his career to date total. You have to respect directors who have made a name for themselves developing a unique and innovative style so successfully that they are truly able to focus on quality, not quantity.
Strictly Ballroom has been adapted for the stage and it was just announced that Moulin Rouge will be as well. Moulin Rouge was meant for the stage and will be a smashing success, even without Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. The 2001 musical is already so well-loved and the various musical numbers probably won’t need much adaptation. Moulin Rouge is primed and ready to be taken on tour.
Parties, Parties and More Parties
If there’s anyone who can perfectly create and direct a lavish party on screen, it’s Baz. When I heard that he would be directing the 2013 Great Gatsby film, I couldn’t wait to see his interpretation of the wild Gatsby Villa 1920s prohibition party scenes. Disappoint they did not: the music, the costumes, the decorations, the dancing, the music, the lavishness – it’s all there.
There’s something extra magical about the overt surrealism overlaying these scenes. The oversaturated CGI post-production elements are abundantly obvious, they’re more like dreams than reality. Reality is great and all, but hyper-reality has proven to be way more fun.
For the Love of Music
A Baz Luhrmann production has always come with an awesome soundtrack. Music is so important, he founded Bazmark Records helping to make obtaining licensing rights easier. Music always plays an integral part of his stories, but serving different purposes. In Strictly Ballroom, music accompanied the dances. In Moulin Rouge, the music propelled the story forward in the traditional style of musical theater.
For The Great Gatsby, music was more of an auxiliary player that helped drive the marketing for the movie and the overall excitement of the jazz era. With Jay-Z at the helm as the soundtrack’s executive producer, the star-studded soundtrack features artists like Lana Del Rey, Florence + the Machine, Sia and U2. Pop and hip-hop elements were blended with 1920s jazz creating fabulous hybrids like this cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” by Emeli Sande.
At 54, Luhrmann has plenty more productions to make in his lifetime and we can’t wait to see what he’ll tackle next. Until then, I’m going to finish watching The Get Down and I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for when Moulin Rouge the musical comes to town. Happy birthday, Baz! Hope you get to party like your movies do!
To celebrate Luhrmann’s birthday, we took a look back at the Australian director’s Red Curtain Trilogy.