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A guide to Baz Luhrmann's greatest works


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Baz Luhrmann is the creative mind behind some of Hollywood’s most cinematic and breath-taking works of film. His eye for unique and beautiful cinematography coupled with the glamour and grace that infuses his works, makes his filmography  worthy of a museum. In honour of this icon’s 57th birthday, here’s a countdown of some of his greatest works.

1. The Great Gatsby (2013)

In 2013, Luhrmann enlisted Hollywood legend Leonardo DiCaprio to star as the eponymous Gatsby in his adaptation of Fitzgerald’s great American novel. The film was a dazzling and splendid ode to the roaring 20’s and was nothing short of a cinematic masterpiece. Luhrmann’s craftsmanship ensured it delivered glamour and heartbreak in equal measure, with Fitzgerald’s own granddaughter saying that her grandfather ‘would have been proud’ with the result. The film marks Luhrmann’s highest grossing effort to date and managed to collect two Oscars at the 86th Academy Awards. I may be slightly biased as this film is one of my personal favourites, but it is certainly one to watch.

2. Moulin Rouge (2001)

Seventeen years ago Nicole Kidman took to the iconic Parisian stage as dazzling cabaret singer Satine, who is wooed into a passionate romance by young writer Christian (Ewan McGregor). The resulting masterpiece was a wonderful mix of comedy, tragedy, outrageous costumes and sets that oozed pure glamour; all set to a backdrop of popular musical numbers. Be honest, what more do you really want from a film? Luhrmann’s glamorous homage to Parisian nightlife was nominated for a staggering eight Oscars at the 74th Academy Awards, marking the first time in ten years that a musical was nominated for best picture. 

3. Romeo + Juliet (1996)

This was the film that marked the beginning of a long-lasting public love for Leonardo DiCaprio. Luhrmann does a phenomenal job of bringing the intricacies of Shakespearean tragedy into contemporary America. While the film retains the original Shakespearean dialogue, it remains fresh and feels like a creative reinvention of Shakespeare’s iconic play rather than a simple retelling of it. It is bold, brash, dramatic and exaggerated but here Luhrmann makes it work. What could easily slide into the ridiculous remains convincing with Luhrmann at the helm and as a result, this film remains entertaining and heart breaking even 20 years later. Not one to miss. 

4. No. 5: the Film (2004) 

Luhrmann again joined forces with fellow Australian Nicole Kidman here to deliver the advert that changed the game. Helmed by Chanel, No. 5 the Film was the first advertising campaign to include cinematic and filmic elements in an advert. Now known as ‘branded content’, it has since become a formula untilised by many global companies. However, one need only look at the original to see that Luhrmann’s masterful control of his work and ability to invoke Old Hollywood glamour whilst still remaining innovative cannot be repeated as easily. As Kidman dashes through Times Square in her flowing pink dress and dances on the rooftops against the New York skyline she perfectly encapsulates Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. With a budget of $33 million this was one of the most expensive adverts ever produced but it certainly deserves its place in history. 

5. No. 5: The One that I Want - the Film (2014)

Luhrmann’s sequel No. 5: The One that I Want - the Film arrived just in time for the ten-year anniversary of his 2004 project No. 5 the Film. Although similar in concept the sequel is arguably better than the first. Luhrmann strays away from the dialogue he employed in his first effort and instead relies entirely on the haunting rendition of the iconic Grease Anthem ‘You’re the One that I Want’ sang beautifully by Lo-Fang. Lo-Fang’s vocals are breath-taking, the cinematography is just wonderful and Luhrmann ties it all together with an engaging and intriguing central storyline. There is some questionable CGI involving Gisele Bundchen on a surfboard but that aside, this is still a cinematically beautiful and memorable advertising campaign that is a testament to Luhrmann’s artistic flair as a director.

Cover photo courtesy of Matt Hart. 

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