Film Review: Moulin Rouge!

It’s been a very long time since I saw Moulin Rouge! In fact, I am fairly certain I have only ever seen it once before. A long, long time ago during it’s big screen release and I remember it well because I watched it from virtually the front row – this was back in the day of unreserved seating and I arrived late. But craning my neck and 20 foot high characters is not the reason I remember it so vividly, but rather, because the night I watched it, I was with a girl on our first “proper” date.

The relationship didn’t last, and didn’t end well, and as a result I have always shied slightly away from the film because of the memories it potentially stirs up. Even the merest mention of the name and I can picture the cinema and feel the excitement of sitting their next to the girl of my apparently short sighted dreams, and I watch something else instead. But 14 years have passed since I was sitting in that cinema, and they say that time heals all wounds, so things felt right to take a trip back to the Moulin Rouge!

Baz Luhrmann - Moulin Rouge

Directed by Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge really is as mad and as wild as you would expect from him. I don’t like comparing styles, referencing film makers, but the way Luhrmann has brought the Moulin Rouge to life reminded me constantly of a fusion between the dark creepiness of Tim Burton and the extreme ostentatiousness of Wes Anderson. Basically it’s just bonkers and brilliant.

It really is one of those films where nothing should work. The story is simple, obvious and formulaic, the characters are far-fetched and hyper-real. Extended beyond all plausibility and believability. And yet everything just works and fits perfectly. The casting is superb and aside from Richard Roxburgh as The Duke, who is the only weak link as I felt he just lacked that little bit of timing in his delivery (I kept thinking that Ralph Fiennes performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel was where Roxburgh needed to be) everyone gels together and compliment their individual roles.

Ewan McGregor & Nicole Kidman - Moulin Rouge

Obviously the spot light falls squarely on Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman and they just fit together. McGregor never feels out of place because he wears his emotions on his face. He may look on occasions too polished to be the poor dishevelled writer he plays, but you let it slide because when he needs to look envious, hurt or simply in love his eyes pack the required punch. It also helps that Kidman, playing the diamond queen so to speak, just sparkles in a way that puts her one rung visually above everyone else. She’s the films unicorn, the stunningly beautiful but ultimately untouchable¬†fairytale creature that makes everything feel fantastical when needed.

Even the rest of the cast work. Jim Broadbent given a mad capped reign to run wild and seizes it with gusto while, Tara Morice as the Prostitute and John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Lautrec manage to stir strong emotions of betrayal, affection and humour into their roles and into you.

Emeli Sande - Crazy In Love - The Great Gatsby

You can’t talk about Moulin Rouge! without talking about the songs. I remember thinking with Luhrmann’s most recent film – The Great Gatsby – that it was at it’s strongest musically when it took modern songs and twisted them into it’s period setting – Beyonce’s Crazy In Love a good example; and Moulin Rouge! is the proof of that pudding. It is essentially a story told through modern pop lyrics. And the choice of songs are not only brilliant but also spot on in tone. It hasn’t shoehorned a song into the film because it needs to borrow it’s lyrics but rather, looked at the overall style of the song and how that affects the mood of the scene. Humour,love, lust or loss all conveyed through the entire piece rather than a quick snippet of sung dialogue. And it means you sit there, smiling happily not only at the realisation of the song being used, but also any connections or memories you already hold to it.

For the reasons explained at the start, there has been a passage of time since I saw Moulin Rouge! and I’d forgotten just how entertainingly enjoyable and exotic it was. I’d forgotten how it uses the power of music to be so powerful in conveying it’s emotion, and how impressive Luhrmann’s style for creating bizarre and outlandish, almost grown up fairytales of visual fantasy can be when let off the leash. It got under my skin and it bound me up into its tale. It kept my attention and it made me feel. Yes, it stirred up some thoughts about my past relationship, but ultimately, it reminded me what it means to feel unquestioning love and how it hurts when that love is threatened.

9 out of 10 stars (9 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

Comments are closed.