I’m not just excited. This movie is titled with an exclamation point, and with good reason. Moulin Rouge! is punctuated in fantastic intensity. With rich in color, music, dance and eccentric characters this remake of the 1952 film intensifies and brings new life into the classic story set in Paris during the Bohemian Revolution.
The film tells us that this is a story about Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love. That’s a little too abstract. It is classic story of a poor young man, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who naively travels to Paris to become a writer in the Bohemian Revolution and ends up falling in love with a prostitute from the Moulin Rouge, Satine (Nicole Kidman). Their love is kindled when Satine mistakes Christian for the Duke (Richard Roxburgh), a sniveling yet powerful client who would be able to fund her acting career and get Satine out of the Moulin Rouge. Through this hilarious mistake, Satine tricks the Duke into funding Christian’s play to be performed at the Moulin Rouge in exchange that Satine belong exclusively to the Duke. From here on all who want the play to go on must jump though hoops to hide the love between Christian and Satine from the Duke.
The first half of the film is bright, colorful and full of quick energy. With Absinthe being the popular drink of the time, it seems as if the film tries to convey the feeling of drinking it, or encouraging one to try it. Just follow the green fairy to the cartoonish scene of mistaken identities that takes place within the extravagant setting of a two story elephant room. The over the top sexuality Nicole Kidman portrays here shows the lengths that women of the Moulin Rouge go through to fake it for their clients. At times, usually in the throws of song, reality dissolves around the lovers and magic sparkles in an effort to make the viewer’s heart sing. It’s pretty affective.
Things get more serious in the second half. The risk of being caught by the Duke rises every minute. The bubbly editing and rainbow of colors become more serious. Reds and blues are most present to show the growing pain and mounting rage within the two men. Everything leads into a spectacular climax, where the lights, colors and drama peak. The story, and play within, is brought to the very brink of unravelment and spring back to knock the wind out of the audience.
Now please remember, this film is a musical. It was the first one nominated for Best Picture in decades, so that puts a good bit of merit behind it. But if you are one who doesn’t enjoy singing and dancing, or just becomes annoyed with sappy love songs, I’ve given you fair warning.
But it is the breath taking songs and masterful choreography that really engrosses the viewer. Without it, this would just be another love story. The songs are ones we’ve all heard today: Roxanne by The Police, Your Song by Elton John, just to name a couple. You’ll recognize more in their new light.
The Roxanne number, or El Tango de Roxanne, is especially stirring. The harsh singing with the rough and intense dancers says more than words can about the relationship between prostitutes and the men who try to love them. If you’re put off by musicals, just Youtube the Roxanne scene for fun.
There is one musical number that just feels too forced; the Like a Virgin scene. True, in the movie, the explanation behind the scene is a bit forced, but it’s too much. The bright side of this scene is that there is a shot of jell-o boobs. It’ll make you smile.
One of the best scenes, musical or not, is when we first enter the Moulin Rouge. Here, the wealthy (and no doubt, horny) men dance into the Moulin Rouge singing “Here we are now, entertain us.” Mixing a bit of Nirvana with a rendition of a pulsing can-can, a modern nightclub feeling comes to the 1900 setting. The women welcome their clients with a colorful display of erotic dancing and flashing their bright ruffled dresses. Within this scene we also get glimpses of all the other strange creatures of the underworld. It’s like dancing into a party at a circus where you’ll surely get laid.
I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys musicals, color, love stories or Bohemians. To anyone who has gone all Van Gogh on absinthe, I’m honestly curious if this film compares to the experience? Or is it better during said experience? I honestly enjoyed the whole trippy feel of the film.
“Suddenly an unconscious Argentinean fell through my roof. He was quickly joined by a dwarf dressed as a nun.”
***A Beautiful Mind is only beautiful, Moulin Rouge! is beauty and so much more. Fellowship is just working towards its final destination, so Moulin Rouge! is my pick for 2001.***