This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Griffin Stenzel’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Moulin Rouge! is a gorgeous spectacle that spins like the windmill atop the iconic nightspot, swirls like the skirts of the can-can girls, and soars like the green fairy that introduces the bohemian world. The most noticeable aspect of this film, and all of Baz Luhrmann's films for that matter, are the visuals. Images pop from the screen like corks from champagne bottles. Every shot oozes with originality and beautiful crimson lighting. Scenes spark innovation, whether its the posturing choreography, the chaotic editing, or the dazzling cinematography.
The visuals not only provide a unique mood--but also symbolism. Nicole Kidman´s Satine is a courtesan, so she's always trying to please others. When she looks in a mirror we watch her change herself to be what the men wish her to be, rather than what she truly is. The constant use of mirrors helps to compare the relationships Satine has with the Duke and with Christian (Ewan McGregor.) With the Duke, we always see Satine prepping herself beforehand in the mirror. The Duke wants the ideal of Satine, not who she truly is. With Christian, mirrors are a minor part of their relationship. She doesn't wear elaborate makeup or costumes, she's her true self. In Christian´s apartment, there is only one mirror, which is small, dirty, and placed behind other objects. This displays how she doesn't have to change herself for him.
Many (understandably) criticize Baz Luhrmann’s style as being overbearing and obnoxious. However, I believe that his eccentric style blends with the actual story brilliantly. This movie follows two timelines: the present-day Christian writing down his love story and the past when the love story takes place. He gains control over the unfortunate events by reframing them in a fantastical way. Even though Christian could easily outsmart the Duke, there is no way to avoid Satine´s terminal illness. Christian could never prevent her inevitable death. Instead of being overwhelmed by the depressing conclusion to their romance, he regains control and is able to present the story in a way that highlights the best moments in a way that he imagines it.
Art has the glorious ability to allow people to express themselves, whether it's in fantasy or in reality. Art can give people the freedom they need to process the darker emotions they face. Moulin Rouge! is ultimately an ode to artistic expression and the power it contains to heal our pain.