Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  • Time: 127 min
  • Genre: Drama | Musical | Romance
  • Director: Baz Luhrmann
  • Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent


Christian, a young wannabe Bohemian poet living in 1899 Paris, defies his father by joining the colorfully diverse clique inhabiting the dark, fantastical underworld of Paris’ now legendary Moulin Rouge. In this seedy but glamorous haven of sex, drugs and newly-discovered electricity, the poet-innocent finds himself plunged into a passionate but ultimately tragic love affair with Satine, the club’s highest paid star and the city’s most famous courtesan. Their romance is played out against the infamous club – a meeting place of high life and low, where slumming aristocrats and the fashionably rich mingled with workers, artists, Bohemians, actresses and courtesans.


  • This is a story about life. And about the artists who congregated in Paris in 1900, living a bohemian lifestyle and giving the world the fruits of their labor, of their art, for which they would gladly bleed and die. But mostly this is a story about love. Of a young man named Christian, a penniless writer, and a singer named Satine, who for a moment came together and tasted the nectar of the gods. `Moulin Rouge,’ written and directed by Baz Luhrmann, takes you into a world that is bright and brilliant, fast and flashy and filled with all of the things that make life worth living. It’s a fantasy world of song and color, of soaring hearts and aspirations– but also of the reality upon which the illusion of it all is built. And the effects of that reality on Christian and Satine, whose love has been forbidden by that same reality they seek to dispel by impaling it with the artistic endeavors that give them life.

    If Disney had commissioned a film to be written by Shakespeare, directed by Fellini and produced by Spielberg, this would be it. It’s a dizzying, whirling burst of lights, colors, music, drama and comedy that assails the senses and will hold you spellbound from beginning to end. Like the bohemians he portrays, Luhrmann leaves convention behind and dips instead into his own inspired and highly imaginative formula to tell his story. The cinematography (by Donald McAlpine) and art direction (by Ann-Marie Beauchamp and Ian Gracie) are brilliant, as well as the production design (by Catherine Martin) and the sets (by Brigitte Broch). One of the many inspired touches Luhrmann employs here, is the use of different film speeds throughout, which, when combined with the superlative, quick-cut editing (by Jill Bilcock), makes it all transporting and surreal.

    Ewan McGregor turns is a terrific performance as Christian, the young man who arrives in Paris with nothing more than spirit and a head filled with ideas and ideals. When artistic differences leaves Zidler (Jim Broadbent), proprietor of the Moulin Rouge, without a writer for a new show, `Spectacular, Spectacular,’ Christian steps in. And so does McGregor, who shines in the part. And the boy can sing! He may not have the greatest voice in the world, but it’s a good `stage voice,’ and most importantly, he can sell a song, as evidenced by the scene in which he puts across Elton John’s `Your Song.’ McGregor has a charismatic screen presence, and in this role he really gets a chance to demonstrate his versatility as an actor.

    As Satine, Nicole Kidman is saucy and sensuous, bringing her character vividly to life, this woman who makes her living by being every man’s fantasy as she sings and sashays her way through this world of the Moulin Rouge. In her heart, she longs to be a serious actress, and if this new show is a success, she just may get her chance. But first, the show needs someone to finance the lavish production. They may have one– the Duke of Worcester (Richard Roxburgh), has expressed interest, but he has one condition. If he pays for the show he wants something in return (besides a profit on his investment). He wants Satine. But so does Christian, who has nothing to offer the show but his talent, and nothing for Satine but his love. Zidler, meanwhile, aware of the Duke’s demands, urges Satine to turn her back on Christian, to `save him.’ And beyond and besides all that is happening, there is something else going on with Satine, something more personal, that ultimately will have an effect on the outcome of the dilemma for all concerned.

    The supporting cast includes John Leguizamo (Toulouse Lautrec), Kylie Minogue (The Green Fairy), Garry McDonald (Doctor), Jacek Koman (The Narcoleptic Argentinean), Matthew Whittet (Satie), Kerry Walker (Marie) and Laszlo Lukas (Conductor). With an eye for detail and his imagination thrust into overdrive, Luhrmann has put together and delivered one of the brightest films to come along in quite awhile. `Moulin Rouge’ is an explosion of sights and sounds, a film laced with humor and visual largess that holds a poignant and dramatic story at it’s heart. Entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable, this is a memorable film and a satisfying movie-going experience. It’s a story about love; a story told through the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.

  • The final film of his ‘Red Curtain Trilogy’ which includes his debut, Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Romeo + Juliet (1996), Moulin Rouge! is without question, the most accomplished Baz Luhrmann picture thus far.

    Winning two Oscars for Art Direction and Costume Design, and nominated for six other Oscars including Best Picture, Moulin Rouge! competed at Cannes to rousing critical acclaim. It redefined the modern musical and was perhaps an influence in Rob Marshall’s Chicago (2002) winning the Best Picture the following year.

    Moulin Rouge! stars Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in leading roles as forbidden lovers. McGregor plays Christian, a low-key writer of plays who moves to Paris in search for writing opportunities. He stumbles onto an underground circus of sorts, a strange, erotic arena where eccentric people in weird costumes party and dance away into the night.

    Welcome to the Moulin Rouge, Paris 1890s. Kidman’s Satine is the star of the underground act, an energetic performer of graceful movements and sensual shuffles. Unfortunately, as we learn early in the film, Satine is dying from tuberculosis (Christian is unaware of her condition though).

    The tragi-romance narrative is rather straightforward and simplistic, and beyond its oddball but typecast characters, it somewhat lacks depth. Luhrmann knows the shortcomings of such a paper-thin storyline; he attempts to mask them by opting for a wild, fantastical style that has become the film’s most unforgettable hallmark.

    Moulin Rouge! carries us back in time into a world of ethereal beauty and peculiar dreamscape. We see a singing moon, lead characters performing a duet amongst the clouds and many more scenes that suspend logic and believability.

    The editing in Moulin Rouge! is quick and frenetic especially during its ‘musical’ sequences. It probably has more cuts per second than any other contemporary film in recent memory. This dazzling, breathless flamboyance is further enhanced through the use of vivid colors.

    It was as if Luhrmann had directed the film with the lush strokes of a paintbrush, and as a result created a beautiful mosaic of eclectic images. Besides being visually stunning, the film also boasts an amazing soundtrack to boot.

    Although set in the late 19th century, the songs sung by the film’s characters are taken from contemporary culture. They are remixed into an arrangement that is at once fresh and original. While some songs are ad-libbed, most of them are vocalized by the cast themselves.

    If I may add, Kidman’s gutsy display is the best part of the film and is probably one of her top three performances of her career. Moulin Rouge! is inventive, innovative, and just simply stupendous filmmaking. Luhrmann has given us arguably the best musical romance of the decade.

    GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)
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