Haven’t we come across this one before? Ah, Moulin Rouge from 2001 is a remake while this Moulin Rouge is the original. Directed by John Huston and pulled together by an independent studio, I got the feeling I would enjoy this.
The story fictionalizes the life of Post-Impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (José Ferrer), who spends his time drinking and sketching the dancers on table cloths at the Moulin Rouge. It isn’t until the crowd has left that Toulouse stands and we see he is unusually short, just in the legs, triggering a sudden burst of sympathy and mystery about him. As if the film sensed my curiosity, we get the back story: he’s from a well to do family (father being a Count), rode for the hunt and was taught to dance eloquently, family with big mansion on estate. But as a boy he fell down the stairs, breaking both legs badly and they are stunted. No woman will ever love him because of this, so he moved to Paris to become a painter.
One night leaving the Moulin Rouge he comes across Marie (Colette Marchand), one of the dancers at the Moulin Rouge, being harassed. Toulouse steps in and boldly claims that she is with him. He lets her stay the night and an unlikely friendship forms, even love. But there are risks and jealousies that plague a relationship with a girl from the Moulin Rouge. Their initial relationship is short, best to let birds fly, but their paths may cross again.
His pain from losing Maria is what seems to put his painting career into overdrive and soon he’s a success, but he drinks way too much. Isn’t that how we imagine artists of all sorts? Poor by choice and drunk as skunks.
Let’s discuss the differences between the two like named films. 2001 is a flashy musical focusing on a love story between a dancer and a poor writer. Toulouse is the name of a minor character, who kinda wrangles the protagonist into the bohemian revolution. In comparison, 1952 is much more subdued, except for one scene in the MR near the beginning there is no singing and the love story isn’t all that lovely. 1952 focuses on the art, Toulouses’s paintings, the post impressionist movement and Toulouse’s life in general. Also, I doubt today’s viewers would want to see a love story between a dancer and a guy with stubby legs, so push him to the back for some comic relief and send in MacGregor for the sex appeal.
Being the ex-art student with a love of the Van Gogh era this film is more appealing than the 2001 version. On a more personal level, I found myself able to relate to the story behind poor Toulouse’s crippled condition. But for today’s average viewer, they’ll probably get more into 2001. I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys post impressionist art or anyone who can relate to physical setbacks.
“One should never meet a person whose work one admires; What they do is always so much better than what they are!”