Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge! ★★★★★

Moulin Rouge! is a kaleidoscope explosion of colours and music and passion - it's no wonder that most of the songs are mash-ups since everything here is so mashed up, turned up, thrown in your face. The visual style is unrelenting: Moulin Rouge! is energetic to the point of frenzy - each frame is filled to the brim with detail, the world of the film spins like you’ve been drinking too much champagne. Everything feels like it’s so much.

I wondered, for the first hour of this, how Baz Luhrmann had managed to balance such in-your-face stylistic audacity while maintaining a genuine feeling of care for the characters and their struggles - is it all down to Ewan McGregor's wonderfully earnest face, or the way Nicole Kidman's smouldering temptress persona is worn down by one of the most charming cinematic uses of Elton John's "Your Song"? But as the Elephant Love Medley transformed into David Bowie's “Heroes”, I stopped caring, I just swooned.

It's so easy to make fun of Moulin Rouge!, and as someone who has never really liked Baz Luhrmann's films, I'm familiar with the adjectives used to describe him: "pretentious"; "obnoxious"; "annoying": and there's many things in Moulin Rouge! that could've annoyed me, if I wasn't so completely delighted by them. Richard Roxburgh's Duke is ridiculous, a parodic villain, the songs (notably Jim Broadbent's rendition of "Like A Virgin") are often silly, the plot contains absolutely no surprises. And at the same time, Moulin Rouge! delivers true pathos, through the bohemian values that Christian wants to embody: “freedom”, “beauty”, “truth”, and above all, “love”. Moulin Rouge! makes me grin, forces my mouth open with glee, but mostly it makes me cry: it works as a film because it’s so overwhelming. You get drunk on that flamboyant, frenetic visual style and soundscape, and suddenly you’re crying in the bathroom about Satine and Christian and love.

(also, the Indian themed play seems misjudged at best, even if it does speak to a certain cultural fascination of the French at the time - but Moulin Rouge! takes enough liberties with history that it feels, to me at least, that it could’ve taken another one here)

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