Screen­writer,

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - REVIEWS - dclarke@irish­times.com

Don­ald Clarke on Gatsby’s last-gasp re­view black­out

There are many rea­sons to at­tend the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. You get the chance to es­cape all that pesky Ir­ish sun and en­joy a re­fresh­ing Mediter­ranean down­pour. Your mus­cles will swell im­pres­sively as you fight your way through heav­ing crowds of sharp-el­bowed for­eign jour­nal­ists. You get a free bag.

More than any­thing else, how­ever, Cannes is to be savoured be­cause you get to see ma­jor mo­tion pic­tures be­fore any­body else in the world has had a glance. (Apart from the film-mak­ers, ob­vi­ously. Just stay with me for a mo­ment.)

All of which brings us to the pe­cu­liar case of The Great Gatsby. On Wed­nes­day night, Leonardo DiCaprio and Baz Luhrmann swanned up the red car­pet for the Euro­pean pre­miere of the Aus­tralian di­rec­tor’s take on F Scott Fitzger­ald’s best novel. What could it pos­si­bly be like? Ten­sion was pal­pa­ble as the beast blinked ner­vously into the spot­light. The veil had fi­nally been lifted.

Do you sense the bub­bling irony in the above?

Of course, by the time the cur­tain came up on The Great Gatsby, the pic­ture had al­ready been on re­lease in the US for the guts of a week. Rot­ten Toma­toes, the re­view ag­gre­gate site, had, trav­el­ling from sea to shin­ing sea, gath­ered to­gether more than 160 mixed no­tices. This Twit­ter thing was abuzz with chat­ter about it.

All this was a bit tricky for Cannes. A fes­ti­val’s open­ing film feels that bit less ex­cit­ing when it has al­ready, well, opened. Happi- ly, a so­lu­tion was to hand. They would just turn back time.

My face­tious­ness has run away with me. But Warner Bros’ at­tempt to im­pose an em­bargo on Euro­pean press re­views un­til the day of the Cannes screen­ing did end up look­ing a tiny bit point­less.

There was no enor­mous tyranny at work. Most crit­ics from this con­ti­nent didn’t see the film un­til Tues­day. In the olden days, they would barely have had time to get their no­tices printed be­fore Wed­nes­day any­way. But the no­tion that, in the days of smart phones and com­puter spec­ta­cles, Cannes at­ten­dees would ap­proach the film in a state of re­view-free in­no­cence is com­i­cal in its ab­sur­dity.

In a rel­a­tively rare out­break of civil dis­obe­di­ence, the Bri­tish pa­pers threw up their vir­tual hands and ran their re­views ahead of the sup­posed em­bargo. By Tues­day, the Daily Mail, the Daily Tele­graph and the Guardian had all passed judg­ment on the film.

Does it mat­ter? A lit­tle. Any de­cay in the nice old tra­di­tion that sees re­views emerge si­mul­ta­ne­ously in one great mass does the creaky old news­pa­per in­dus­try no good. We de­pend on peo­ple as­so­ci­at­ing cer­tain ar­ti­cles with cer­tain days of the week. That’s how the old dead-tree model works. Fri­day it’s movies. Wed­nes­day it’s the car stuff. And so on. This an­ar­chy un­der­mines what lit­tle or­der re­mains.

Which is not to say it’s worth fight­ing the in­ex­orable ad­vance of the evening tide. We can, how­ever, whinge about get­ting wet.

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