BySean Gallen, writer at
The pen is mightier than the sword but is ultimately useless in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Filmmaker, filmlover, MP staff writer.
Sean Gallen

The Get Down takes place during one of New York’s darkest periods: crime rates were sky high, the city was on the verge of bankruptcy and jobs were scarce. Yet, Luhrmann sees the silver lining in the era:

"New York in the 70s was like 1890s Paris, the grand period of opera in Italy- why was so much creativity bursting out of one place at one time?"

Netflix's latest foray into 1970s New York music scene will premiere on August 12th and there is a lot to be culled from the initial sizzle trailer: an inciting cast of new talents and bonafide soundtrack all tied together by Luhrman’n's glamorous, romantic style which creates a new spin on the most filmed city in history.

Putting a Bit of Color Into the Gritty Streets of NYC

Films and TV depicting NYC divide the city in two: cosmopolitan, glamorous Manhattan (Sex and the City, Friends, Gossip Girl) and the dangerous, run down projects of Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens. Out of the myriad of shows set outside Manhattan, most go for the grit and the grim, a realistic approach to shooting either crime, biopics, dramas what have you. The usual aesthetic for the other four boroughs features monochrome project buildings, somber lighting broken up by police cars or streetlights and miserable poverty everywhere.

Brooklyn after the Blackout riots
Brooklyn after the Blackout riots

The monochrome grit we are used to seeing has been completely swept away by Luhrmann'’s Technicolor glamour and glitter. Each shot is charged with light and color. Real locations are fused masterfully with subtle CGI touches. The set design is over the top and creates a sense of the theatrical. The story uses the origin of hip hop as a springboard but is also focused on the city as a melting pot, a cliche that Luhrmann is breathing new life into. The focus is on celebrating New York’s diverse musical heritage, everything from disco to hip hop to a little bit of punk and house are all mashed together. The best example from the sizzle trailer is Mylene (Herizen Guardiola), daughter of a Puerto Rican minister, she has to try and reconcile her gospel voice with her disco ambitions.

Real 70s NYC Style in Real Outer Borough Locations.

Much like the revered underground classic Beat Street and the classic Saturday Night Fever, the characters in The Get Down use music not only as a distraction from their destitute surroundings but a filter through which they see the world, looking beyond the burnt cars and drug dealers. Music is a religious experience in the Baz Luhrmann universe that transforms characters into something greater, almost superhuman. The riots and crime are still prevalent but it doesn't weigh down how the characters are perceived.

Luhrmann, a white Australian, may seem like the wrong choice to pen this love letter to the origins of hip hop (see Iggy Azalea’'s demise) but he has gained enough authenticity through casting choices, bonafide soundtrack choices and set design to demonstrate that he is a true lover of the genre and has hopefully put the $120 million budget to good use. The Get Down is set to be a vibrant and imaginative account of life in the other boroughs filled with optimism and splendor which will likely set it apart from the poorly received Vinyl.

What are your favorite shows/films about 70s New York?

Check out the playlist inspired by The Get Down below!

Source: The Guardian


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