Moulin Rouge (2001) dir. Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewen McGregor, Jim Broadbent, John Leguizamo, Richard Roxburgh
By Alan Bacchus
I hated this movie when I first saw it on the big screen and I still hate seeing it for a second time on the brand spanking new Blu-Ray almost 10 years later . What many found and loved as a wild extravagant melodramatic rock opera to these eyes and ears is just an overly dramatized two hour long garish pop video version of Gilbert and Sullivan.
The story finds a young writer Christian (McGregor) in Paris at the turn of the century employed by a really weird group of stage producers, which includes John Leguizamo shrunked down to the five-foot sized Toulouse-Lautrec, looking to write and finance a play around the debaucherous nightclub, 'Moulin Rouge'. Christian ingratiates himself with Moulin Rouge's owner Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) as well as the club's luscious courtesan Satine (Kidman). They fall in love, which runs counter to Zidler's plans to use Satine to woo their moneybags investor 'The Duke' (Richard Roxburgh). Meanwhile Satine's days on earth are numbered as she suffers from TB.
The love triangle of Satine, the Duke and Christian continues all the way up to the premiere of their show 'Spectacular Spectacular' where true love triumphs, just in time before Satine falls victim to a melodramatic death.
Remember that scene in Dumb and Dumber, when Jim Carrey's character, says, 'Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?" and then proceeds to scream wildly into the ear of Jeff Daniels? This is a similar feeling I get when watching 'Moulin Rouge'. Of course to critique the film for being 'over-the-top' would be useless. It's a rock musical which needs to have a big top razzle dazzle quality. But Luhrmann executes his stylish pop opera like a shrill cat in heat.
Let's start with the editing, there’s some terrific production design in the celebrated stage sequences, but Baz Luhrmann chops everything up so fast and with a non-sensible montage sensabilities we lose the sense of scope. I'd even argue that the production design is too busy for it's own good. Like ill-matching plaids, we can barely even find the actors in the frame out of the mess of colour and velvet drapes in the background.
When the film is not mashing together overplayed pop songs, the plotting of the actual story is put through an extreme screwball comedy machine. Unfortunately it takes funny actors and funny dialogue to get some laughs, not shameless sound stings accompanied by excessive camera whip pans.
No one can really sing in the film that well either. Ewen McGregor's voice is not really that bad, but not great either, and a lead in a cinema musical needs to have a great voice. And this film in particular his deep vocal tones just doesn’t fit the needs of the heightened rock opera. His opening ditty, Elton John’s My Song is downright awful. Nicole Kidman is also only passable, but would be crushed into submission by anyone on Broadway, or even Glee. She also doesn’t seem natural as a seductress, she still comes off as a demure prude which most of her other roles have type cast her as.
And so to lay the point down as bluntly as Luhrmann has done with this film, it's simply unwatchable.
But Moulin Rouge lovers rejoice, the Blu-Ray transfer is actually pretty good, and is now available from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.