Moulin Rouge (2001) Directed by Baz Luhrmann. With Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo and Jim Broadbent.
Baz Luhrmann’s interpretation of Moulin Rouge, (cinema’s fourth visit) is a boisterous musical journey into the famed seedy underworld of early 2oth century Paris. Visually arresting and with more energy than Tom Cruise on speed, Luhrmann’s film strikes a rare balance of appearing to be on the brink of losing control while remaining sharply focused and fully on key. For a cast with no track record in musicals, there’s an inherent ‘holding of breath’ before each character’s melodic introduction and although it’s clear that neither Kidman or McGregor are ever going to win awards for vocal prowess, their commitment and respective charms are more than enough to keep the central love story alive while allowing us to marvel at the stunning musical arrangements that cover a colourful medley of everything from Rogers and Hammerstein to Nirvana.
Beyond all the razzamatazz and histrionics there lies a central love story. That such a thing as true love could exist in a world fuelled by exploitation and sex is an excellent jumping off point for the story of Christian (Ewan Mcgregor) who as a writer, has come to Paris to capture a flavour of the infectious bohemian spirit perpetuated at the lively Moulin Rouge. It’s there that Christian encounters Satine (Nicole Kidman) who as the nightclub’s most coveted attraction embodies all the traits of the tortured starlet. Satine is beautiful and talented, but her ambition to attain fame beyond the confines of ‘the rouge’ means selling herself to the extent of sacrificing personal happiness in favour of stardom. Christian’s naivety and innocence is attractive to Satine and his ability to break through the illusion and lies of her world begin to entice her away from the things she has always strived for. Circling like a predator is ‘The Duke’ (Richard Roxburgh) who forms the third part of a dangerous love triangle. The Duke is a powerful man with the means to provide Satine with her big break – but only for the price of her affections which gives way to an emotional tug-of-war played out through a series of perfectly bombastic song and dance numbers.
At times it becomes a game of name that tune as one infectious melody merges into another. One number that threatens to steal the show is Jim Broadbent’s ‘Like A Virgin‘, which is so over the top in delivery that it’s hard to deny a constant smile. Indeed, for much of the runtime, the film aims to captivate and arouse that sense of cheeky, nod-nod-wink-wink humour in way that’s never overly salacious and falls on the right side of good taste. In summary, a good-old-fashioned story of love set against a decadent backdrop and told with an agreeably trippy verve with likeable performances. 4/5