Ossus Library Index Comedy Index

MOULIN ROUGE

Directed by Baz Luhrmann (2001, 20th Century Fox)
Starring Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo, and Richard Roxburgh

A poet falls in love with a beautiful courtesan, but must keep their love secret from a jealous duke.

 

 

5 stars

August 3rd, 2013 in the Theatre for the 6th time  
   

Never having seen this movie in the theatre, I jumped at the chance to see it when it came back for the Summer of Musicals series. I sat through the entire movie thinking that it was so much better than seeing it on the small screen! The choreography was insane, and dizzying. The colors were still vibrant after all these years. The visuals were quite simply spectacular.

The songs were already extraordinarily done, but in full surround sound and high volume, they were absolutely wonderful. A shiver ran down my spine during the Elephant Love Medley. A very close second is the Roxanne Tango, with Ewan McGregor's chanting overlaid. Pure brilliance and very effectively done.

I only wonder what the other people in the theatre thought. Viewers really need to know what they are coming in for before seeing it, and if they were not into silly comedy mixed with this incredible romance, I can understand why they would walk out. But not me. I thought the silliness only added to everything else.

 

 

5 stars

April 12th, 2010 on DVD for the 5th time  
   

I think it's amazing how this movie changes tones, and it is very subtle, until the audience realizes that it has happened. The beginning is very over-the-top, introducing the Moulin Rouge as a character. My favorite parts are still the romance during My Song and the Elephant Love Medley. Then it gets more intense, until at the end the intensity is overwhelming. The characters are written perfectly, and the actors pull this off, actually breaking from the pressure. Not to mention that the two main characters have great chemistry and voices!

 

 

5 stars

May 6th, 2006 on DVD for the 4th time  
   

Still loving this movie!

 

 

5 stars

January 11th, 2003 on DVD, for the 3rd time  
   

It can be a very dangerous thing to introduce a friend or family member to one of your favorite movies, especially when it is as strange as this one. You are constantly looking over to gage their reaction to things that you found funny or intriguing. There are awkward moments when the really strange parts come on the screen, not knowing if they will simply want to turn the movie off, or if they have disgust on their faces.

This movie is one that you shouldn't praise too much before showing it to people who haven't seen it before, because they will go in with an attitude that is way too positive, expecting too much. Cautionary praise is important, as is a warning that the movie is very strange, but if open to it, can be very rewarding.

There are easily many scenes that qualify as awkward, such as when Ewan McGregor starts singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music...", and then later when Nicole Kidman starts screaming her fake orgasm (inferior, of course, to the one in When Harry Met Sally) to Ewan's confused face. Try watching that one with your parents.

Still, no matter what our friend thought of it (she was lukewarm), I still loved it. The cinematics, the charisma, the chemistry between the two lead actors, and above all, the singing, had me glued to the screen. Wow.

 

 

5 stars

April 28th, 2002 on DVD for the second time  
   

Unfortunately, I was forced by circumstances to watch this movie piecemeal.  Fortunately, it didn't suffer much because of that.  I still think this film is brilliant, with terrific cinematography, choreography, directing, and of course music.

I bought the soundtrack (and the sequel to the soundtrack) soon after watching the movie for the first time.  And I think I've been listening to it pretty much non-stop.  Of course, I have my favorite songs, like Your Song and the Elephant Love Medley, as well as the beautiful Come What May, or the passionate Roxanne.  But the truth is that there is no bad song here, even counting the hilarious impromptu "pitch session" for the duke after he discovers Satine and Christian together, or Like a Virgin, which is also hilarious. 

I had not planned on watching this movie again so soon, but I had the opportunity to buy the DVD for my collection, and so I did.  And I always check the new merchandise for flaws by watching them through.  Upon a second viewing, this movie lost nothing.  I was actually worried that the novelty of the movie would have worn off, because I was completely surprised at the story and the method of telling it the first time.  Thankfully, it didn't.  I was just as amazed by it all, and noticed more details, this time around.

Now that I have the DVD at my fingertips, there is nothing to stop me from playing my favorite parts (the ones that go along with my favorite songs, above) again and again.  This is one I'll treasure for a long time to come!

 

 

5 stars

March 24th, 2002 on DVD  
    Stunning, absolutely stunning. I couldn't get enough of this film. The dancing, acting, directing style, and especially the singing were absolutely amazing. That said, the movie is definitely not for everyone.

I went in forewarned. I knew the movie was strange, so perhaps had a lower expectation. But I remember seeing the previews in the theatre and thinking this was interesting. Especially with Ewan McGregor in a lead role. How interesting, I had no idea. I didn't even know this was a musical! But it certainly is not what one would expect. I don't even know how to characterize the movie.  But the fact that I've already watched several scenes two or three times must say something...

The story is one about love. As I have mentioned before, I am a sucker for a good love story. There are the usual characters -the man who has never really known love, who falls for a beautiful woman, a prostitute, a courtesan at a local nightclub for the rich and anonymous. By a mistaken chance, he ends up in her bedroom, when she is expecting somebody else, a rich Duke who will make her into an actress. But before the moment passes, she has also fallen in love. Enter the Duke, who is an immensely jealous man. He agrees to pay for renovations to the club so that it can become a hall for a live theatrical performance. So the lovers hide their love, and the owner of the club keeps making excuses for her behavior. When the Duke does figure it out, there is a short conflict, and one of the two is taken out of the game. Which one? The poor poet or the rich Duke? Although this is a tragedy, it is a story about love. Of course she chooses the poor love of her life!

I was not prepared for how funny this movie is. Aside from the song elements, which are the funniest parts by far, every character does their best work in keeping the situation as ludicrous as possible. The Duke is very tight and stern, talking with a high pitched, whiny voice that makes him look very stuck-up, which he undoubtedly is. His blindness to the situation between Satine and Christian is hilarious, as anybody with one eye could tell what is going on. It takes another dancer to open his eyes, saying about the play they are performing, "the ending is silly -why wouldn't the courtesan choose the rich Maharajah over the poor writer -oops, I mean sitar player?" She sits down so proud of herself that I wanted to strangle her! I can't figure out what Satine and Christian did to her to deserve that, but it was wonderfully nasty!

The Duke even gets scary at one point, though, showing the range of acting. He nearly rapes Satine after finding out about her lover, and when she can't go through with her plan to save the play by sleeping with him. Luckily, she is saved by an underused black stage dancer (he was terrific in the scenes he played).

Harold Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge, was absolutely hilarious as well. The actor played the part of the nervous owner very well. He became exciting when the Duke wanted to make an actress out of Satine, when the Duke wanted the deeds to the theatre as collateral. But his best quality was his improvisation skills. I am sure he had no intention of ever hiring Toulouse-Lautrec to do a play in his club. But when he finds Christian and a half-naked Satine in her bedroom, and the Duke bursts in, Toulouse-Lautrec and his gang also enter and pitch their idea for Spectaculaire-Spectaculaire! Zidler has no choice but to go with it, or else endure the Duke's wrath. On the spot, they develop the entire outline of the play, with contributions from everybody, even the Duke! Toulouse-Lautrec's constant claim that the play should be set in Switzerland was hilarious.

The rest of his troupe was set decoration, but interesting as well. The Argentinean was the most serious one, though his disease (suddenly falling asleep while doing even the most animated work) made him a funny character in this situation, due to everybody else's exasperation. Toulouse-Lautrec, with his slur of words was also fun to watch.

But the best characters were the leads. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor were outstanding! The chemistry between these two on screen was nothing short of incredible. The way their eyes met, and the way she glances at him when she first hears his real voice... sultry. I never knew they had voices like this! Who knew they could sing! Sure, she was good, but without him, I'm sure she would have been simply okay. Adding his voice to the mix made me sit up and take notice. When he starts his rendition of Your Song by Elton John, the rest of the entire set goes still, except for the lights suddenly turning on all over Paris. I was as stunned as Satine was. Incidentally, this was my first realization that this was no ordinary movie. Taking pop songs and reworking them into this turn of the nineteenth century style is not something I thought would have worked. But it was stunning, absolutely stunning!

The two main actors did an incredible job of showing the emotions that their characters were going through. I never noticed Nicole Kidman's blue-blue eyes before, but her seductive smile, her gorgeous hair (not to mention all the well-fitting and low-cut dresses) did everything to draw me in. She was at her most beautiful. Ewan McGregor, for his part, is as handsome as can be (I get this from a reliable source -Joanne also thinks Sean Patrick Flannery -Young Indy- and Goran Visnjic -Dr.Kovac in ER- are similarly handsome, and Ewan resembles both). His smile showed a giddy sort of school-boy happiness and glee, his eyes lit up just as much as Kidman's did, and that voice... wow!

This version of Your Song, sung entirely by Ewan McGregor in an incredible voice, was enchanting, especially when he first starts up. Their dance was no less amazing, as they hopped across the sky, swinging from the Eiffel Tower. After the Duke leaves, they engage in a love song medley, which is also outstanding. It is incredible to hear those songs sung as an argument between two people, or even as a duet. The fun of this part at first was simply figuring out which songs they were going through. But on a second watching, I just enjoyed it immensely for the singing and dancing. The newly mixed themes for these songs, with the powerful bass and passionate undercurrents, were outstanding. But I still can't get over Ewan McGregor's voice!

There are two major songs that are not sung by Satine or Christian. One, Roxanne, was sultry and intense, extremely passionate, and fit so well with the scenes that were taking place that it looked almost like it was written for this movie. Christian sings counterpoint to the song, so that the entire movie was filled with passion. It was amazing! The other song was the most hilarious of them all! Like a Virgin sung between two men, with Zidler speaking about Satine, explaining how she feels towards him. The dance routines and the singing, the expressions on their faces, were hilarious.

In the end, in order to save him, Satine has to make Christian think that she has chosen money over love. The Duke will kill him if Christian sees her again, and it is revealed to her (though we knew very much earlier) that she is also dying of consumption. Christian comes back, though, and is nearly killed by the Duke's thug. But Satine cannot resist him, and she starts to sing their secret song, the one that they created together to show that they were still in love, even though she had to do things that they would not agree with. This is a haunting song, the only really original track on the soundtrack. It's quite beautiful. The Duke and his thug are knocked out, but Satine dies in Christian's arms as the curtains close.

It is a sad story, but it is a story of love. For the first time, Christian knew love, and was loved back in return.

The first half of the movie was pure energy, from the Lady Marmalade theme to the raucous dancing in the club, through Your Song and the story pitch. The second half slowed the energy down somewhat, but it was always very interesting, and sometimes erotic. It was never boring.

I have nothing bad to say about this film at all. I was taken by surprise at the use of pop songs here, but I found it hilarious. I was totally blown away by the performances. Perhaps the cutting in the club scene was a little too fast, and I was just as awkward during Satine's orgasm scene as Christian was, but I think it gave a sense of the intensity and absurdity to both. I watched the love song medley, Your Song, and Like Virgin four times!

As for the DVD, I think I'd need another month to see everything. There is a good making-of video, very interesting. There are interesting interviews with the actors, director, and several crew members. I didn't watch all of it, but they seemed well made. The series of rehearsals, multiple angle dance scenes, music videos and performances, alternate scene cuts, and more, were things that I browsed through. I perused several of these, but I think I barely touched the surface. I listened to a (very) little of the audio commentary, and checked out some of the behind the scenes "green fairy" tidbits in a couple of my favorite scenes. But I know that I barely saw any of the extra features. I was not as interested in the dance scenes as I thought I would be, but for somebody who is interested in that, I think it's amazing. The special effects shots were wonderfully done. I think, even if somebody didn't really enjoy the movie much, the special features on this DVD are enough to interest anybody who is interested in film. There is something for everybody.

But I loved the film, so the extras simply extended my enjoyment. I think this is a movie that people will either LOVE or HATE. I don't know if there is an in-between. Certainly, from people that I've talked with, there is no middle ground. For me, this was immense and powerful, and this movie is one that I will return to.
 
   

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