February 18, 2011

Moulin Rouge (2001) - a musical with a few magical touches [review by starlight]

Moulin Rouge is a classic story of love-at-first-sight, with the twist of the hopeless romantic falling for a prostitute. I know we all claim to be tired of this sort of thing... but just stop whining and enjoy its charms. Please? For me? This film is complex enough to make that overdone plotline incredibly rich and fantastic.

Christian is a writer who has come to Paris to experience the bohemian revolution, with a dedication to the ideals of "truth, beauty, freedom and, above all things, love". He falls in love with Satine, the Moulin Rouge's head starlette. The intriguing part of this story is what happens when Christian is mistaken for the Duke, an investor in the Moulin Rouge's production of Spectacular Spectacular, a play Christian is writing for a bunch of crazy bohemians. Satine wants to go from "courtesan" (or the hooker with the prettiest singing voice) to actress, and the Moulin Rouge will subsequently transform from "night club" (or glorified brothel) to theatre. But they need the Duke's money. He is creepily obsessed with Satine and demands that she... service... only him, in exchange for his funding. To make matters worse, he demands that the deeds to the Moulin Rouge be transfered to him in the case that there be any "funny business", which of course there is, because she is giving Christian free "service" behind the Duke's back.

What's so good about Moulin Rouge? Well, to hook the classic rock lovers, it has showy covers of some really great hits - Your Song by Elton John, Heroes by David Bowie, Silly Love Songs by Paul McCartney, Roxanne by The Police, All You Need is Love by The Beatles, and The Show Must Go On by Queen. Also, Madonna, Nirvana, and Whitney Houston. So mostly great rock songs, but there is something for everyone. And who can forget Christina Aguilera with... ok I forget who... doing Lady Marmelade?

The art direction in Moulin Rouge is fabulous... and weird. Very weird. It might take a second watch to really get into the weird comedy as well. Have a few drinks with your first watch and you'll soon find yourself chuckling at the absurd circumstances and nonsensical spectacles. Just trust me.

Partway through there is a noticeable shift from ridiculous dance scenes to dramatic, tense ballads. Accompanying the shift in tone is Christian's transition from boy falling in puppy love to insanely jealous lover. Ewan McGreggor does a spectacular job here. Watch how long his goofy grin is plastered on that face, making him the picture of a man falling in love for the first time (don't you know it's gonna last) and then suddenly he is intense and crazed. Flashes of that innocent love can be seen in his expression later, making the transition incredibly flushed out and believable.

You're really going to have to take a leap of faith with me if you haven't seen this. The first watch may even be too estranging, but just stay seated for the whole ride, and I promise you will like where you end up. Just... just trust me.

Get it on blu-ray here. Probably looks even more stunning than this image:


  1. Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies, I've listened to the soundtrack so many times my CD is scratched beyond repair, especially the Roxanne track. At first blush, everything about the movie looks cliche.

    Baz Lurhmann is one brilliant bastard. when it comes to turning cliches and expectations on their heads, there is no one else like him.

  2. That's a good point - it's cliche in appearance, which makes it a bit of a hard sell. That's why I was so dedicated to presenting it in a way that will convince people to give it a chance. It really is a fine film.

    Thanks for reading!