why the Australian director is the subject of so much criticism


He is also the guest editor of the last vogue Australia.

He was first guest editor of the fashion magazine decades ago. Reflecting on that outing recently, Luhrmann somewhat shamelessly recalled how he took a “relatively unknown” Nicole Kidman in 1994 and made a vogue star.

Austin Butler in Elvis by Baz Luhrmann.Credit:Hugh Stewart/Warner Bros.

Relatively unknown? She had already starred in her breakthrough role in mortuary silence, was nominated for a Golden Globe and married the most famous man in Hollywood, Tom Cruise, at that time. Minor details?

Last Sunday, I watched Luhrmann pose for fan selfies outside the State Theater. He clearly appreciates recognition… when it’s favorable.

While he wasn’t actually in the movie, it was pretty clear last weekend that Baz Luhrmann is arguably the biggest star in Elvis. Just as it has been since Ballroom strictly. He also continued to be one of the biggest supporters of this country’s film industry, choosing to make the majority of his films here, supporting countless creatives along the way.

Of course, by his side throughout it all is his wife and co-conspirator Catherine Martin, the costume, production and set designer who is responsible for much of the production for which Luhrmann is celebrated in the whole world.

Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin at the 2014 Helpmann Awards.

Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin at the 2014 Helpmann Awards.Credit:Marc Metcalfe

And yet, it was Martin who won four Oscars for his work on Red Mill! and Gatsby the magnificentwhile Baz has none.

I once asked him about it, and while he was obviously proud of his wife’s extraordinary accomplishments, it was pretty clear that such accolades wouldn’t be out of place on Luhrmann’s trophy shelf.

As for Elvis, I can report that the film, which comes out June 23, is just as visually lush, decadent, and at times shocking, as any of Luhrmann’s other films.

But with every low point in Elvis (the overly literal telling of his story gets a little clunky, while Tom Hank’s portrayal of Colonel Tom Parker didn’t reach its full villainous potential), Luhrmann delivers twice as much, not at all the ingenious recreations of Elvis’ concerts brilliantly performed by Austin Butler.

The scenes of a young Elvis discovering black music in an evangelist’s tent were a visceral experience to behold.

Personally, I prefer a movie like Elvis on another extravagant, mega-budgeted, mega-bloated Marvel superhero film. And yet, instead of praising Luhrmann for going his own creative way and doing something different, audiences and critics, especially Australians, seem preoccupied with looking for flaws they seem to ignore in people like Thor.

Elvis’ toughest film critics have described him as anything from “completely deranged” to “extremely loud”.


And each of them specifically singled out Luhrmann for his reviews, far more than probably any other high-profile Australian director.

Perhaps Luhrmann’s seemingly robust ego is to blame? It is undoubtedly one of the largest of our poppies.

His constant showmanship and his ability to talk about his own projects with such profound confidence set him apart from his contemporaries like George Miller, Phillip Noyce, Gillian Armstrong, Bruce Beresford, PJ Hogan or Fred Schepisi. It’s a trait that is perhaps a little anti-Australian.


Comments are closed.