Saturday, May 16, 2009

Counting Down the Zeroes: Spectacular! Spectacular!

Moulin Rouge!

Release: 06.01.01
DVD Release: 09.10.02
Rated PG-13
2 hours, 7 minutes

See It, Take a Friend, Buy the DVD!

This post is part of COUNTING DOWN THE ZEROES, brought to you by IBETOLIS of FILM FOR THE SOUL.

A recent advert for the DVD release of Slumdog Millionaire touts it as the best film of the decade. I couldn't help but laugh when I read this. Have people forgotten about Moulin Rouge!?

Slumdog Millionaire and Moulin Rouge! have similar roots; both projects' directors were inspired by Bollywood films. However, while Millionaire was the Academy darling this past year, winning eight of its ten nominations, Moulin Rouge! was widely snubbed, winning only Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction from its eight nominations. Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet) wasn't even nominated for Best Director! Could it be Rouge! is the inferior, less entertaining of the two?

I think not. The exclamation point in the title says it all; expect excitement. On the day I saw Moulin Rouge! in theaters, many audience members were not prepared. I know this because I watched at least four people leave before the Diamond Dogs began to can-can. When friends asked my opinion of Moulin Rouge!, I made it clear that it was awesome, but you had to give it at least fifteen minutes to adjust to the frantic pacing and wild cinematography.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, Moulin Rouge! is the tale of Christian (Ewan McGregor, Big Fish), a young British writer who moves to Paris at the turn of the nineteenth century to embrace the Bohemian lifestyle. Shortly after arriving, Christian meets the dwarf Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo, Spawn) who is developing a new play with his Bohemian friends for the Moulin Rouge's owner Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent, Gangs of New York). Christian and his mad writing skills are quickly accepted into the group and he is presented to the Rouge's star, Satine (Nicole Kidman, To Die For), to secure her favor for their play. Only problem is Satine mistakes Christian for the Rouge's potential financier, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing). Ultimately Satine must seduce the Duke, while keeping her burgeoning romance with Christian a secret.

Once Christian and Lautrec meet, there is barely a moment's pause in the singing. Beginning with music from the Sound of Music flowing to the popular cover of Lady Marmalade and culminating in my favorite scene, a medley of love songs atop an Elephant's head, it's nearly forty-five minutes before the film returns to a standard story format. In Moulin Rouge! you find popular songs from artists such as David Bowie, Madonna and Nirvana in mash-ups against seemingly contrary songs, sampled as part of a larger medley, or used in their entirety to particularly comic effect. You might think the result would be irritating, but it's quite captivating. The music of Moulin Rouge! grabbed me in such a way that I snatched up the soundtrack the first chance I got and still give it a listen every couple of months. Until researching this post, I never knew they released a Volume Two. Needless to say, I will cop that tout de suite.

The rousing music is barely even the half of it. Colors jump off the screen. Deep reds, cool blues, neon greens and pale whites are so crisp they crackle. When the doors to the Moulin Rouge first open, a swirling, dizzying flurry of vibrant costumes and leering faces assaults the eyes; Luhrmann uses the visual overstimulation to mimic Christian's perspective on his virgin voyage to the cabaret.

If the music and imagery don't excite you, gazing upon Ewan McGregor will topple your defenses. His boyish smile and adamant belief in the love that he and Satine share is irresistible. You can feel McGregor giving it his all in every scene. Kidman is equally impressive. In fact, from Broadbent's boisterous showmanship to Leguizamo's absinthe-tinged lisp and Roxburgh's nasally tantrums, all the actors deliver scene after hilarious scene. Like Luhrmann's visuals, they can turn on a dime to deliver the most heart-wrenching and dismal moments, changing the playful nature of Rouge! into a rueful affair.

Outstanding music and exhilarating visuals presented by some of the most talented actors--you couldn't ask for anything more. Bollywood films are designed to give audiences their money's worth and Luhrmann does exactly that with Moulin Rouge!.

Large Association of Movie Blogs


  1. I remmeber being pretty shocked that MR! was so dissed at Oscartime, especially when just one year later, Chicago cleaned up - I know they are vastly different stylistically, but still! MR! is a blast, and gorgeous to boot, and Kidman even managed to win me over.

  2. Generally I am not a fan of Kidman, but she did good work here.

    So many of my friends tell me they hated MR!. I don't get how, it's so much fun.

  3. Ewan McGregor really blew me away with his performance in this flick. The Love Medley was my favorite for sure. I like musicals :D

    Chicago on the other hand...bleh.

  4. Ewan was the best! I enjoyed Chicago, but Catherine Zeta-Jones may have had more than a little to do with that. :-)

    I am learning that I enjoy musicals far more than I realized. I think Glee may be my new favorite fall show.

  5. Glee? I thought it was painful to watch...gotta wait until September to see if has any staying power.

  6. I'm a sucker for Journey, so that made the first ep a shoe-in. I think the show has potential, I just hope they don't rely too heavily on the stereotypes for humor.