Produced, directed and written by the ultimate romantic, Baz Luhrmann, Moulin Rouge! is a film about freedom, beauty, truth and love. Moving somewhere along the storylines that La Traviata and La Bohème have drawn, the movie tells the tale of a young writer who fell in love with Satine. A courtesan, who sold her love to men. They called her the “Sparkling Diamond”, and she was the star… Of the Moulin Rouge. The woman he loved is… Dead.
It all started when the director and his wife, Catherine Martin (also production and costume designer for Moulin Rouge!), went to India to work on Midsummer Night’s Dream. There, after watching a Bollywood movie, they decided that right after Romeo + Juliet, they would make a musical that would deal with a passionate love story set in Paris’ Montmartre and the famous cabaret, Moulin Rouge. In 2001, the film came out, causing a huge sensation and receiving eight Academy Award nominations of which it earned two — Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. The fact that it didn’t get Best Picture and Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, hurts to even talk about.
However, it was the first musical to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in ten years at the time, which it really deserved. Starring Nicole Kidman as Satine — the Sparkling Diamond, Ewan McGregor as Christian — our very own penniless sitar player, John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Lautrec — the sitar that only speaks the truth, Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler, Richard Roxburgh as the Duke, and the hilarious and multitalented Jacek Koman as the Unconscious Argentinean, who also plays the penniless tango-dancing sitar player, who will sing like an angel, but DANCE like the devil, Moulin Rouge! couldn’t have gathered a more insane group of actors, even if it tried.
Co-written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, the film’s screenplay is hands down, one of the funniest and most romantic scripts ever written. Taking all the things that have been said a million times before and reinventing them in a way that everything is new, fresh and exciting, the characters, situations and dialogue are funny, dreamy and beyond idealistic. The direction is like nothing anyone has ever seen before. High volume, extreme colours, a pace that makes The Fast and the Furious cry, and famous 20th century music, very creatively revisited. Everything is too much, everything is obvious, everything is stressed, everything becomes physical. Aggressive, overwhelming, extremely vivid and loud, does Moulin Rouge! get tiring? Not for a second.
On the contrary, the musical, perhaps for the first time since Jesus Christ Superstar, becomes modern, hip and awfully daring. The genre is revitalised against all odds, through stereotypes, irrelevant cartoons and constant anachronisms. Only Baz Luhrmann would ever be capable of accomplishing such a task. Gorgeous and unstoppable, the editing takes you places you’ve never been before, with nothing lasting more than a split second. So be quick if you want to watch this film.
And what can be said about the cast? All perfect, from Nicole Kidman, who has her viewers right where she wants them, following her around in a glittering cabaret and drooling all over her, to Ewan McGregor who goes from singing Gimme Danger as an Iggy Pop lookalike in Velvet Goldmine, to exclaiming that “the hills are alive with the sound of music”, as Christian, the Bohemian writer. Jim Broadbent and John Leguizamo are from beginning to end as sleazy as they are delightful. You don’t want to go near them, but you don’t want to stop enjoying them either.
The work of an incurable romantic, Moulin Rouge! is crazy, energetic and passionate. It’s something very modern, called Spectacular, Spectacular. And “generally, I like it”.