Moulin Rouge Review
It's official, the buzzword of 2001 in terms of cinema is 'anachronism'. We've already seen attempts to 'Flintstone-ise' films and this is particularly evident in certain sequences of A Knight's Tale and Shrek. However, Moulin Rouge takes this a step further by basing its entire structure on the postmodern aesthetical 'anything-goes-as-long-as-it's-stylish' approach.
Never before has there been a more blistering full frontal attack on the minds of cinema-goers than in Moulin Rouge. Baz Luhrmann already hinted at the way things were going to go with Romeo And Juliet and Strictly Ballroom - films that championed the farcical, romantic, melodramatic and extremely frenetic facets of contemporary culture. However, Moulin Rouge is unrelenting in its 'Luhrmann-ism', and there certainly isn't anything around this year in the same vein, maybe even the last five years.
Set in a surreal turn of the century Paris, young Christian (Ewan McGregor), armed with only a worn typewriter and an obsession for love, travels to the French capital in an effort to become fully integrated with the Bohemian movement that is gathering steam. However, Christian is almost instantaneously introduced to the anarchic Moulin Rouge, whereby a strange band of characters including the vertically challenged Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) convince him to write a new star vehicle for the voluptuous Satine (Nicole Kidman). Soon enough, Christian starts imagining ideas above his station and falls in love with Satine. However, Moulin Rouge owner Harold Zidler (the wonderful Jim Broadbent) is determined to trick a wealthy and evil Duke (Richard Roxburgh) to invest in the new musical in order to finance the Rouge's transformation into a theatre, and his pimping of Satine to the Duke in order to help the financing along will come unstuck if Christian is added to the mix. Various musical, romantic and tragic elements then ensue, but none of this really matters compared to other elements of the film.
Firstly, Luhrmann's style is so different and so utterly chaotic that a minor portion of the audience will already be deterred. This approach combined with its unrelenting structure and long-ish running time can be seriously grating if one is not in the proper mood. However, it is impossible to not hold even a small amount of respect for Luhrmann in giving something different to the usual boring summer season (and this season is particularly boring to say the least). Visually, the film is stunning, and the cinematography fully complements the early Bohemian feel. You can almost smell the Parisian streets. Performances are first rate, particularly Broadbent and Leguizamo. It's also refreshing to detect that Kidman and McGregor even seem to be singing with their own voices. Fans of that sort of thing will delight in the fact that Kylie Minogue even makes a brief cameo. The editing should bag this year's Oscar for the ultimate presentation of chaotic yet controlled structure. As for the soundtrack, Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit and Elton John's Your Song are two of many highlights, especially considering they are performed in the style of a Bohemian musical. Incidentally, Broadbent's performance of Madonna's Like A Virgin has to be one of the funniest since Michael Caine's bitter murdering of Roy Orbison's It's Over in Little Voice. The highlight of Moulin Rouge however, and the scene which showed the most magic, was Kidman and McGregor flirting with each other on top of a tower firing song lyrics in the style of Deliverance's Duelling Banjos.
Surprisingly though, I hated Moulin Rouge completely. It's annoyingly in-your-face and at times the musical numbers were so mundane that one felt compelled to drift towards one's own imagination for escape. The running time is overlong and needs a healthy reduction of a few numbers to feel slicker. After leaving the cinema, the cold streets outside felt like a warm retreat from the neurotic visual overload that was Moulin Rouge. However, the thing I hate most about the damned film is that even though I felt this way about it, it left such an impression on me that in hindsight I actually enjoyed it, and it might be the best film of the year. Just please don't ever make me see it again. I've suffered enough.