Film: Moulin Rouge

Cover image

Moulin Rouge

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

A spectacle beyond anything you’ve ever witnessed. An experience beyond everything you’ve ever imagined. Behind the red velvet curtain, the ultimate seduction of your senses is about to begin. Welcome to the Moulin Rouge! Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor sing, dance and scale the heights of passionate abandon in the year’s most talked-about movie from visionary director Baz Luhrmann (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom). Enter a tantalizing world that celebrates truth, beauty, freedom and above all things, love.


A dazzling and yet frequently maddening bid to bring the movie musical kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge bears no relation to the many previous films set in the famous Parisian nightclub. This may appear to be Paris in the 1890s, with can-can dancers, bohemian denizens like Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), and ribaldry at every turn, but it’s really Luhrmann’s pop-cultural wonderland. Everyone and everything is encouraged to shatter boundaries of time and texture, colliding and careening in a fast-cutting frenzy that thinks nothing of casting Elton John’s “Your Song” 80 years before its time. Nothing is original in this kaleidoscopic, absinthe-inspired love tragedy—the words, the music, it’s all been heard before. But when filtered through Luhrmann’s love for pop songs and timeless showmanship, you’re reminded of the cinema’s power to renew itself while paying homage to its past.

Luhrmann’s overall success with his third “red-curtain” extravaganza (following Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet) is wildly debatable: the scenario is simple to the point of silliness, and how can you appreciate choreography when it’s been diced into hash by attention-deficit editing? Still, there’s something genuine brewing between costars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (as, respectively, a poor writer and his unobtainable object of desire), and their vocal talents are impressive enough to match Luhrmann’s orgy of extraordinary sets, costumes, and digital wizardry. The movie’s novelty may wear thin, along with its shallow indulgence of a marketable soundtrack, but Luhrmann’s inventiveness yields moments that border on ecstasy, when sound and vision point the way to a moribund genre’s joyously welcomed revival. —Jeff Shannon

Barnes and Noble

Director Baz Luhrmann’s latest extravaganza, an exuberant re-envisioning of the movie musical and an operatic salute to 20th-century pop culture, borrows from everywhere yet manages to be a cinematic experience unlike any other. Recalling Puccini’s La Bohème, Lurhmann sets his tale in the world’s original pop-pleasure dome, the Moulin Rouge of fin de siècle Paris. Ewan McGregor stars as Christian, an idealistic and impoverished young writer who, newly arrived in Montmartre, is haphazardly inducted into a circle of absinthe-swilling bohemians led by Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo). A comedy of mistaken identities ensues, quickly enmeshing the young poet in a Mephistophelean love triangle involving the unobtainable and consumptive Satine (Nicole Kidman), queen courtesan of the Moulin Rouge, and the foppish Duke of Roxbury (Richard Roxburgh), his villainous rival for her affections. Granted, you may find yourself reaching for an oxygen tank, thanks to the centrifugal force of Luhrmann’s MTV editing style, combined with some staggering musical cross-pollination (sources range from David Bowie’s version of the pop standard “Nature Boy” to Beck’s version of Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs”). But it’s worth it. Moulin Rouge is exhausting, but it’s also energizing and inexplicably moving. Kidman dazzles in a series of original costumes, and the elaborately constructed sets are equally stupendous. Look for a superb performance from Topsy Turvey’s Jim Broadbent as Zidler, the Moulin Rouge’s soft and fuzzy Faust. He also heads up one of the film’s more hilarious song-and-dance sequences, stomped out to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” The double-disc DVD of Moulin Rouge—which includes excellent production commentary, interviews with the director and writer, and at least ten hidden Easter Egg trailers—offers welcome insight into the method behind the madness of this thoroughly postmodern folly. Virginia McCollam

Related Works

Album:Moulin Rouge: Music from the Film

Moulin Rouge: Music from the Film

Various Artists

Nicole Kidman playing a singing prostitute? Ewan McGregor channeling the Police? If the soundtrack to director Baz Luhrmann’s freakish musical Moulin Rouge has its way, we’ll all be wearing corsets and swinging from the ceiling while the former Mrs. Tom Cruise becomes our favorite new pop sensation. As daring as Luhrmann himself, the compositions test Kidman—who could have easily used a league of backup singers and studio knob-twiddlers to hide her inexperience—and she actually passes. She’s no Olivia Newton-John, but she capably mixes Madonna’s “Material…

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