Gatsby not great, but gives Cannes a grand opening

BAZ Luhrmann shrugged off criticism of his big screen adaptation of The Great Gatsby as it opened the Cannes Film Festival yesterday - taking inspiration from its author F Scott Fitzgerald, who he said was also "horrendously criticised" when the novel was published.

The 3D film's Australian director issued his defence while appearing in the southern French town alongside stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.

Unusually for the opening film of a festival, Gatsby had already been released in the US.

It has taken more than $50m (£33m) at the box office but faced mixed reviews.

The Los Angeles Times said the filmmaking "suffocates beyond resuscitation any dramatic interest" while the Miami Herald called it "a failure that should have at least been a magnificent mistake".

The same, Luhrmann said, happened to Fitzgerald. "He wrote that book, and he was horrendously criticised when the book came out. The major critic of the day called him 'Fitzgerald, this clown', and said his characters were like marionettes."

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Throughout Luhrmann's career, with films such as Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, he "never got high critic scores", he said.

One person who has approved of the adaptation was Eleanor Lanahan, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's granddaughter, born four years after the author's death.

She approached the director following the premiere, and told him: "I think Scott would be proud of this film, because people have said for many years you cannot take his first-person narrative and make it into a film. I think you've done that."

Luhrmann said: "For me that was about as good as it could possibly get. If we've done anything, that's made it worthwhile." The director also revealed that the book sold more copies last week than it had throughout the author's lifetime.

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