Moulin Rouge is basically a love story told as an extended music video. Set in the late 19th century at the famed Paris nightclub, the story revolves around Satine (Nicole Kidman), the club's premier entertainer and courtesan (read: whore) who is the object of everyman's desire, in particular Christian (Ewan McGregor), a struggling Bohemian writer and the Duke of Worcester (Richard Roxburgh), a wealthy investor. It's your typical love triangle, which doesn't seem so complicated, I mean after all, Satine being a prostitute, you can't expect her to really be in love right? Wrong. She sincerely loves Christian and he tries convincing her to turn off the red light and settle down with the house and white picket fence.
This sounds like a good proposition (no pun intended) for Satine's future, but first she needs to deal with the present. The owner of the Moulin Rouge, Zidler (Jim Broadbent), plans to transform the burlesque house into a legitimate theater. However, he cannot afford this endeavor without strong financial backing. One leading candidate who could fund the project is the Duke, who wishes to charge a different type of interest, the one he has in Satine. He wants Satine to all to himself and she is torn because she not only wants see the theater be chartered but to pursue a career as a bona fide actress. (No more can-can dancing for her.) It seems that women back then had the same quandary as they do now, love or career? However, I digress.
Moulin Rouge is not just a musical, but also a mixture of comedy and melodrama. The movie has some funny parts in it, but ultimately, it is a tragedy, as we find in the movie that Satine is terminally ill. Despite the wistful ending, the movie does have healthy doses of comic relief, but not the comedy of twirling-around-on-a-mountain-top-like-a-mental-patient comedy that we saw in The Sound of Music, nor the annoying voices and songs. Surprisingly, Kidman and McGregor posses very nice voices and sang pleasantly (but not Grammy material.) Additionally, in place of do re mi fa so la ti do our ears were treated to renditions of songs by Madonna and Elton John and Nirvana. WARING TO PURIST: If you don't want your memories of these artists defiled, stay away from this film.
This film can be described with the following words, in no particular order:
Brilliant, colorful, loud, fast, spectacular, magical, flashy, artistic, tragic, (soap) operatic, sexual, and a festival of light, motion, and sound. The movie's best sequence, IMHO, is the dark story of The Tango of Roxanne, told to Christain by his narcoleptic Argentine friend. This dance number recounts the tale of a man who falls in love with a prositute and how jealousy destroys them. It paralells the relationship of not only Satine and Christian, but the language of the dance hints that the Argentinian is speaking from first hand knowlege. The score and the dance are both stirring and disturbing. Moulin Rouge seems to be the latest attempt to revive the long-gone heyday of musical films, such as Evita attempted to do in 1996. However, this is much better fare than latter, although it's main character too was a harlot.
Now, just as the Force has a dark side, so does this movie. When I described it as loud, I meant LOUD, I am sure that OSHA warnings were violated and the sound was in-your-face (or in this case, ear), and the editing makes you need some Dramamine. The camera is constantly swinging, panning, and twirling, so quickly that it makes you dizzy. The word, theme, and concept of love are saturated throughout the film. A couple times I thought I would need insulin from all the sap. The film also had its moments where it seemed very artificial and sometimes you just had to wonder if MTV was behind it.
Moulin Rouge is great eye candy. The sights, the sounds, and the lead characters appeal to both genders. If you aren't used to musicals, be ready for people breaking into song in mid-sentence, but the songs here are well placed. I am not normally a Nicole Kidman fan and was reluctant to see it, but I have to give her credit for her performance. I am sure that she, like her character in this movie, has aspirations of becoming a real actress and perhaps someday she will. Vive le Moulin Rouge!
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: C
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:
A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV
La Czarina Rouge
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