The Bronx 1977. Buildings are burning down, gangs are running rampant through the streets, and Ed Koch is fighting to win the New York City mayoral election over Beame who has run the city into virtual bankruptcy. When all seems so dark, what can give the “city that never sleeps” a bright light of promise? Hip-hop.
This is what Baz Luhrmann is currently undertaking in a new Netflix original series aptly named The Get Down. The story surrounds a group of high school friends who are making their way in the emerging hip-hop scene. Does the series have a dark, dilapidated atmosphere that would be representative of the time? Not really.
How Mr. Luhrmann? How do you make such vibrantly colored sets and enable the viewer in recognizing the unrealistic backdrop of the city? Where’s the grittiness? Why do I feel that I’m watching an elaborate musical being performed on screen?
Because he has a vision that I could not see at first. He is a man of musical theater. He creates well choreographed dance pieces with songs that makes one want to get up and dance. This is what hip-hop was. The bright spot.
When all was dark, a bright aura surrounded those contributing to the emerging culture. Kids got away from gangs. Kids wanted to make something of themselves the legal way. Hope.
The colorful sets and costume are the hope. The graffiti covered sets give beauty to the squalor. This is 1970’s New York. Beauty in the struggle.
This approach is a change from the typical darkness and dull colors that create the inner-city atmosphere in cinema. Only Baz Lurhmann. The man who placed Romeo and Juliet into contemporary times. The man who used hip hop to score the glitz and glamour of the Gilded Age of The Great Gatsby.
This is genius in cinematic approaches. Doing something different. Merging two things unalike and making them a cohesive ONE. This is originality in cinema.