Extraordinary Sets and Epic Tales The Cinema of Baz Luhrmann

Love, from theatre to the big screen

Born in Australia in 1962, Baz Luhrmann was born to a farmer and his dance teacher wife. He spent his childhood growing up in a village outside Sydney in New South Wales. After such a normal, calm, everyday childhood, it is amazing to think that Luhrmann would later become a world renowned movie director, writer and producer. His calling was first realized when he entered Sydney&rsquos National School of Dramatic Arts, which gave him his first break as an assistant on a production of Peter Brooks&rsquo &ldquoThe Mahabarata&rdquo.

His father owned a cinema and a petrol station where Luhrmann grew up. We can say the former fact would be the one with the most influence on his decision to become a director, triggering his love of film. However, it might have not been sufficient to mold his talent, had his experience working in the petrol station not put him in touch with a variety of people with many different stories. His interest in people&rsquos lives and feelings is one of the things that encouraged him to consider applying for art college.

Now, Baz Luhrmann&rsquos name is linked to some incredibly well received productions, but his art has not simply brought the joy of good story-telling to the big screen indeed he has had some insightful ideas andexecuted them with grace, to the betterment of others in the industry. Indeed, it is a clear sign of Luhrmann&rsquos being one of the 21st century&rsquos best loved directors that others have stated that if it were not for him, then they would not have entered the field of directing, or at least, they certainly would not have developed their style in the same way. By far, the most striking example of this has been in his 2001 hit musical extravaganza, &ldquoMoulin Rouge!&rdquo


Having worked for long enough acting in the theatre, Luhrmann &ndash the young actor Luhrmann, that is &ndash decided to chance cinema acting and starred in the 1982 July Davis movie, &ldquoWinter of Our Dreams&rdquo. This was where Luhrmann got his first taste for directing and realized that although interested in the process as a whole, his real place was behind the camera &ndash not in front of it. That&rsquos when it all started.

In his first experience as a director, he filmed &ldquoStrictly Ballroom&rdquo, which came out in 1992. According to many, the most integral role of the film &ndash Shirley&rsquos character, was all the more realistic as she was inspired by his own mother in real life. Futhermore, the father of the feature having been a farmer with little interest or appreciation in dance, it is not hard to see how his own father influenced the figure of Barry. Full of color, lively and eccentric dance, combining irony with romance, the &ldquoStrictly Dancing&rdquo fable received acclaim from many critics and was even awarded honorarily at the Cannes film festival.


Without editing a single line of script and restricting himself as a director to arranging the setting and characterization, in 1996 Baz Luhrmann bravely took on the task of directing what, to this very day, remains the greatest movie rendition of &ldquoRomeo + Juliet&rdquo. Casting such famous faces as Leonardo Di Caprio,Clare Davis, Brian Dehenny, Christina Pickles, Paul Sorvino and Diane Venora, in a bold gamble as a director, the film succeeded admirably in taking a centuries-old classic and bringing it to life on screen while at the same time allowing the director to put his own very unique spin on proceedings at no cost to the beauty of the original script. At the Oscars, the film won an award for best Art Direction and Set Management, while also earning recognition at the BAFTAs and Berlin International Film Festival.


In 2001, Luhrmann unleashed an altogether unique musical experience on the general public, bringing together a star-studded castfeaturing Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, John Leguiano and Kylie Minogue in &ldquoMoulin Rouge!&rdquo, which would soon become a cult hit in cinema history. In the film, live entertainment is on the way out. A depressed writer, Christian, plans to put on a brand new performance at the Moulin Rouge after a having been inspired by the show room stunner Satine, in a chance meeting which decides the course of the film.

Typical of Luhrmann&rsquos fast-recognisible style, the film is driven by love and a fight against enormous odds. The film picked up many awards, for best film, best atress (Nicole Kidman), best set, best visual direction, best costume design, best art direction-set decoration, best make-up and best sound &ndash all these just at the Oscars, whilst the film also picked up countless awards from a whole host of industry institutions such as the BAFTAs, Golden Globes, Critics&rsquo Choice awards, WGA, LAFCA.


In 2008, Luhrmann returned to directing with an incredibly artistic production &ndash &ldquoAustralia&rdquo. The lead roles starred Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, and drew the interest of huge numbers of people excited to see what kişnd of chemistry could be created by bringing these two Hollywood greats together. Before it was even released, the film sparked a wave of excitement. However, the technicalities of the production, for one, became a hot topic of discussion. At 165 minutes long, this epic proved to become the 21st century&rsquos challenge to &ldquoGone With The Wind&rdquo.

The pre-war love story set in Luhrmann&rsquos namesake homeland recalls the interaction between Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in &ldquoThe African Queen&rdquo. On the one side, an aristocratic woman, and on the other, a village lad from the outback. The film won an Oscar for Best Costume Design, but failed to cause the kind of hype that was prevalent around Luhrmann&rsquos previous works, so the director lost himself in a series of short films, producing less-well known works such as &ldquoHard Chic&rdquo, &ldquoNaif Chic&rdquo, &ldquoSchiaparelli & Prada: Impossible Conversations&rdquo, &ldquoThe Classical Body&rdquo, &ldquoThe Exotic Body&rdquo, &ldquoThe Surreal Body&rdquo, &ldquoUgly Chic&rdquo and &ldquoWaist Up/Waist Down&rdquo. It would be a long time before he came back into the limelight with his recent hit, a film adaptation of the &ldquoThe Great Gatsby&rdquo.


In 2013, Luhrmann returned to his former glory together with a strong cast, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton.  &ldquoThe Great Gatsby&rdquo is thought by most to represent the closest thing to the near-mythical &lsquogreat American novel&rsquo, which many have attempted unsuccessfully to capture on the big screen. The best attempt was most probably the 1974 eature featuring Jack Clayton, Robert Redford and Mia Farrow where Francis Ford Coppola plays some emotion scenes, brushing the poor young hell-raiser Gatsby, with a certain melancholic dourness.

Under the direction of Luhrmann, the tone of the work was rewired with choice music, a successfully orchestrated set design and a respect for the original text of Fitzgerald, enriched by Luhrmann&rsquos eye for finding the best visual representations, while successfully reconstructing 1920s New York on an Australian film set. Fast-paced luxury automobiles, crowded party scenes, New York construction sites and the goudy accouchements of the nouveux-riches, all feature in a visual and audio delight.

It has been recently rumored that Baz Luhrmann is now working on realizing his own idea for an action movie. According to Empire magazine, Luhrmann, with a heavy focus on choreography, may be fusing the action in his next feature with kung fu fight scenes. The director has revealed nothing about his future plans since the closing of The Great Gatsby in cinemas, he has stated however that he could not say no to the idea of breathing life into period pieces from the 1970s, so we will have to watch this space. Even rumors that Luhrmann is staying the course of his career are enough to keep his bevy of fans and admirers happy.