Judge Neal Masri thinks every movie would be made more exciting by adding an exclamation point to the end of its title.
Our review of Moulin Rouge, published December 18th, 2001, is also available.
The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
Director Baz Lurhmann swings for the fences in this occasionally maddening yet often exhilarating movie.
Facts of the Case
Seeking to be part of the Bohemian revolution, Christian (Ewan McGregor, Trainspotting), an idealistic English poet, makes his way to Paris in 1899. Falling in with a group of misfit showmen who call themselves the "children of the revolution," he and his friends frequent the Moulin Rouge, a nightclub world famous for its entertainment and debauchery. There he meets Satine (Nicole Kidman, Australia) a singer longing to leave the Moulin Rouge and become a 'real actress.' In her, Christian finds what he has been looking for from the revolution, true love. However, an evil Duke (Richard Roxburgh, Van Helsing) also has his eyes on Satine. Will love truly conquer all?
Watching Moulin Rouge is a supremely polarizing experience. People tend to love it or hate it. Even more frustrating is the source of that dichotomy—Baz Lurhmann's filmmaking audacity. The same tendencies that make for some undeniably soaring movie moments also make for more than a few annoying excesses.
Most egregious for me are the instances of near headache inducing, quick cut editing. Lurhmann's often ADD, music video style editing choices do sometimes serve to heighten the experience, but often feel excessive. The performances are also a wildly uneven affair. Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman do excellent work in the lead roles and (with the help of some studio wizardry I'm sure) hold their own in the singing department. Far more troublesome is the flat out annoying performance by John Leguizamo (Righteous Kill) as Toulouse-Lautrec.
Actors aside, the style and the music of Moulin Rouge are what will stand out, as you look back on the experience. The music is mostly contemporary and it is wall-to-wall. The juxtaposition of pop favorites from recent decades and 19th century Paris is both striking and effective. You'll know many of the songs and if you don't like the current one, another will be along soon. In addition, the psychedelic orgy of color and the surreal take on the look of turn of the century Paris are show stoppers in their own right.
As the music soars, and Kidman and McGregor dance among the clouds to Elton John's "Your Song," I have to admit to being swept away for a moment. Then there's the oddly disturbing rendition of Madonna's "Like a Virgin," which I'm pretty sure was meant to be a bit off-putting. Then we have scenes of Kidman looking radiant and tragic all at once. And so it goes with Moulin Rouge. Soaring moments are often followed by a misfire of one form or another.
Now, on to the undeniably good technical aspects. This disc is supremely satisfying from an audio and video standpoint. The wildly vivid and varied color palette bursts off the screen. Black levels are deep and dark, and the clarity is outstanding. The audio does not disappoint either. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is here to showcase the music and does so admirably. The mix is wonderfully dense while still allowing lyrics and dialogue to be understood perfectly, and the subwoofer provides a deep (sometimes thunderous) undercurrent. Technically, this disc is an excellent upgrade from the DVD version (no slouch in the tech department either, I might add); a good looking and great sounding presentation.
A healthy serving of extras complements the feature. The primary new to Blu-ray extra is a picture-in-picture commentary featuring Lurhmann and members of his production team, showing behind the scenes stills and footage. The commentary itself is a bit dry and heavy on nuts and bolts, but informative nonetheless. Various other featurettes, including Nicole Kidman's first vocal test, tell you all you'd want to know about the production. It's safes to say you'll stay busy for quite some time going through all of them.
In summing up Moulin Rouge, I give potential viewers this well worn piece of advice: don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. When the hyperactive editing or some of the ill-advised performances get you down, hang in there. A really fun musical moment, beautiful costume, or fine piece of movie showmanship is just around the corner. On balance, this audacious piece of work is more deserving of recognition than Chicago, the musical that won the Best Picture Oscar the very next year.
For my money, any musical that can work in Nat King Cole, DeBarge, Rodgers & Hammerstein, The Police, Nirvana, and Kiss into the same two hours is worth a look.
Not Guilty. The good here far outweighs the bad.
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