So Do wn With It

A be­hind-the-scenes look at the all-singing, all-danc­ing gam­ble com­ing to your lap­top screen.

ELLE (Canada) - - Radar - by Sarah laing

in a hangar-like sound stage on the out­skirts of New York City, a group of jour­nal­ists is wait­ing for Baz Luhrmann to call “Ac­tion!” on the “get down” scene in his new Net­flix se­ries, The Get Down. (If you’re not up on ’70s slang, this turn of phrase de­scribes the real groove line in a song.) It’s our first glimpse of all the el­e­ments of this am­bi­tious project com­ing to­gether. I mean, aren’t you a lit­tle cu­ri­ous to see how an episodic mu­si­cal (from the brains be­hind Moulin Rouge!) about the death of disco, the rise of punk and the birth of hip hop in the burned-out Bronx of the late ’70s ac­tu­ally works in real life? The crowd of bell­bot­tomed, Afroed and flo­ral-polyestered ex­tras is rest­less in a ner­vous sort of way. They’re all ready to spring into “We’re hav­ing so much fun at this street party!” mode at the di­rec­tor’s word.

The prin­ci­pal cast mem­bers—a quar­tet of young men in match­ing T-shirts—are primed for a big mo­ment in each of their char­ac­ters’ plot lines. For this scene, the band is “get­ting down” for the first time in front of a crowd of rowdy, sweaty Bronx dwellers in 1977. But be­fore the cam­eras can roll, Cather­ine Martin, leg­endary cos­tume and pro­duc­tion de­signer (and Luhrmann’s wife), spots some­thing. Way up on one of the bal­conies, the soles of an ex­tra’s ten­nis shoes are bright white. Prob­lem? They look too new.

We see that same ob­ses­sive at­ten­tion to de­tail when we are in­vited to talk with Luhrmann in a record-la­bel of­fice, with its piles of vinyl and macramé hang­ing chair, that Martin has metic­u­lously re­con­structed for the show. He speaks pas­sion­ately about ev­ery­thing from the se­ries’ ori­gin story (he saw some graf­fiti in Paris that made him won­der how hip hop got so huge in France) to the death of disco (which the se­ries also charts, es­pe­cially as it in­ter­sects with the rise of rap mu­sic) and why he chose to tell the story on Net­flix (“It has a cul­ture of ag­gres­sively chang­ing the par­a­digm,” he says, which is not un­like his own mash-up ap­proach to cre­at­ing).

The only time he does pause is to in­tro­duce his wife, who is the calm coun­ter­point to Luhrmann’s fren­zied (but in­fec­tious) en­thu­si­asm. “I ac­tu­ally stood in Times Square in 1975, when I was 10,” says Martin. “I didn’t see any of the vices; all I saw was the in­cred­i­ble lights, and I thought it was the most beau­ti­ful sight I’d ever seen.”

And, hon­estly, that’s a good way to sum­ma­rize how it feels to watch the “get down” hap­pen when the scene gets rolling. Sure, it’s set in an era of wide­spread poverty, po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and scuffed-up Con­verse run­ners, but as I watch the crowd dance to the young men’s mu­sic, two things come to mind: The Get Down def­i­nitely works, and it’s beau­ti­ful. n

The first six episodes of The Get Down are on Net­flix as of Au­gust 12.

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