Spectacular, spectacular. Zidler, Satine and Christian must convince the Duke to fund their new play, a new play that has not been written. The manic recitative rendition that occurs in the bedroom is beautiful to look at yet absurd at the same time. With his frenzied camera movements and the orgasmic explosion of colours Luhrman does something that may not be quite new but it is rare. And as it is in ‘Spectacular, Spectacular’, so it is in Moulin Rouge!
If Shakespeare had decided to do a musical in his youthful days [re A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labour’s Lost] I don’t suppose that Moulin Rouge! would be far off from his creation. The plot of Moulin Rouge! is as absurd as the most bauble like of Shakespeare plays and Elizabethan trifles of the era. Propelled by a sensitive artist, it is about his yearning to experience the bohemian life as he falls for a delectable vamp who may not be as reckless as she pretends. It has a dark, brooding villain looming over it complete with the necessary henchman to carry out his underhand work…and all this occurs under the watchful eyes of our benevolent host – Harry Zidler. This is the Moulin Rouge! Moulin Rouge! should probably come with a warning…leave all propensity to disbelief at the door. Because we really cannot take it as truth, and yet every movement of the characters enthral and we are indeed hooked.
All the virtues and vices of Baz Luhrman come to glorious congregation in Moulin Rouge!’s outrageous scheme. The film is thoroughly his and just as Burton Sweeney Todd was thoroughly his, it is the same for Luhrman. However, despite my love for Moulin Rouge! my appreciation of it does not pitch in until the entrance of Satine. It’s not that Ewan doesn’t do a good job as the lead, because he is phenomenal. And the scenes outside of the Moulin Rouge! are pretty to look at, but it is not until 'Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friends', or possibly 'Diamond Dog's from just before that the charm of what is the Moulin Rouge! really kicks in. Satine’s entrance is one of the most thrilling entrances I can recall on film – musical or not. It is all orchestrated so well with the paleness of Nicole against the dark backdrop of the club. She truly is a sparking diamond.
Moulin Rouge! treads a line that is almost impossible to go along smoothly. The film is an odd mix of hilarity, tragedy, drama and comedy and it doesn’t stay in one tone for too long. It’s a bit of a risk on the creator’s part. This is not the Elizabethan era which demands obtuse comedy to heighten the drama. This is a film of the new millennium. But it works. And no doubt the gameness of the cast is essential. Ewan and Nicole are wonderful as the lead and John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh and Caroline O'Connor
all given in top notch performances. This is a true ensemble film, in every sense of the word.
Yes, it gets a bit silly when we think of it. Is there any fatal disease as ubiquitous as consumption in 19th century period pieces? But despite its silliness...or perhaps because of it there is a sweetness and charm to Moulin Rouge! that is not lost on me.And I really do love it. It’s doubtful whether or not Baz will ever be able to helm a film so in keeping with his talents. But regardless, we’ll always have the Moulin Rouge! Truth! Beauty! Freedom!...and love.