Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Moulin Rouge!; musical romance, Australia/ USA/ UK, 2001; D: Baz Luhrmann, S: Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, John Leguizamo
Paris, 1900. Young writer Christian writes about his tragic love story. A year earlier, he moved to an apartment in Montmartre where he stumbled upon Bohemian artists led by Toulouse-Lautrec who wanted to put up a play about love. They brought Christian to the Moulin Rouge hoping he would persuade courtesan Satine to star in it and attract the financing of Rouge owner Harold Zidler. She fell in love with Christian, but Zidler needed financial support of the rich Duke and thus already promised Satine to him. The Duke invested into the play and wanted to kill Christian because of his love with Satine. Christian showed up on the stage during the play and it becomes a hit. Satine confessed his love to him but died due to a disease.
By taking only the positive sides of Bollywood musicals, director Baz Luhrmann created a bizarre, hermetic, often messy experimental musical that at times seems almost like patchwork, yet its best parts are so good that you forget all the flaws and simply enjoy in it. "Moulin Rouge!" is "over-edited" since it has more cuts than all of Ozu's films put together, but also has a reason for such a method: namely, the authors wanted to conjure up a world in 1900, when people did not know about electricity, and thus Christian's first entrance into the glamorous Moulin Rouge must have been an extraordinary experience for him, while the means of editing "transformed" it on the viewers - a green fairy (Kylie Minogue!) shows up; Zidler is flying while the courtesans inside are singing Christina Aguilera's "Lady Marmalade". Its a rush of the senses and you immediately know "anything goes". It's kitschy and it's too much, but it has artistic merit whereas Jim Broadbent simply steals the show as the hilarious Zidler who can even trick the Duke into thinking that courtesan Satine is "confessing", while singing Madonna's "Like a Virgin" in a sequence that bravely borders on deliberate (auto)-parody.
Nicole Kidman, who won a Golden Globe as best actress in a Musical or Comedy, and Ewan McGregor are both fabulous in the two main roles, sympathetically singing like amateurs, which is why they will be the strongest reference point to the viewers who find everything else problematic in the film. Every once in a while, you realize that a good movie must perform something unique to prove that it has something to show. And here it performs something almost impossible in the 3-minute so called "Elephant Love Medley" sequence: McGregor sings one song, but Kidman sings it false, to emphasize how she is rejecting him; he then changes only one refrain and moves on to a different song, and so on and on until they both sing in synchronicity at the end, together, kissing. The fact that the authors crammed some dozen songs there in only 3 minutes, from Lennon's "All You Need Is Love", through Phil Collins' "One More Night", U2's "Pride (In The Name Of Love)", "Don't Leave Me This Way", to Bowie and Eno's "Heroes" and others and blended them all so full of harmony and perfection, can only cause a "Wow" effect. Luhrmann's style falls sometimes into mannerisms and loses overview, yet because of the above mentioned virtues the film still has charm.