September 19, 2010

How Wonderful Life Is Now You're In The World

Let's talk about musicals! They are cruel little mistresses, aren't they? I mean cruel in the sense that they only appeal to a very certain demographic! No, not just gay men! Shut up! If you're not in that musical demographic, you traditionally want nothing to do with singing and dancing and general revelry, like my dad! Now, I'm am one of those types who loves, and I mean LOVES, musicals! I have a ton of soundtracks, try and see one whenever I go into NYC, and am currently in rehearsals for one at school! So, of course I was going to love Moulin Rouge going in! The thing is, though, everyone else will too, because Moulin Rogue is a mad crazy brilliant piece of work! Visually astounding, very well written, sharply directed, impeccably realized, with some great music to boot! This is a musical to get people into musicals!


Moulin Rouge is a musical, obviously, so that should instantly tell you something about what it's about! I'll give you a hint. What is the one thing that is a universal underlying theme in musicals? What drives the story of them all?
LOVE, you tosser! Moulin Rouge is about love! Love of art, music, fun, and each other! The specific love story here concerns Christian, a penniless British writer obsessed with love, and Satine, the star of the most banggin' night club in all of Paris, the Moulin Rouge! Their romance is brought about through a really convenient case of mistaken identity, but soon grows to a relationship for the ages! As Christian writes a play for the club to perform, he and Satine must contend with the eccentricities of their fellow artists and the advances and machinations of the evil Duke, who seeks to make Satine his own!

Ok, yeah, I know! A little cliched. It's a musical! Cliched is a part of the fun! So, it's the same story we've seen a bazillion times, but it's a very well told version of it, with relatable characters that we can easily root for and believe in. Christian and Satine's relationship is simply beautiful!

Obi-Wan Kenobi Ewan McGregor is Christian. Once you get over the idea of a Jedi Master belting out Elton John lyrics, you'll find he does a fine ass job! He inhabits the role of the hopelessly romantic bohemian effortlessly and does a lot in adding believability to absurdity of the whole movie. Nicole Kidman does some of her best work as Satine! She's gorgeous, as always, and really excellent! She is instantly lovable and sweet! It's impossible not to fall in love with her or sympathize with the obstacles in her way! The thing that drives home both of these performances is their voices! Both McGregor and Kidman can seriously sing! They aren't up to the level of a full on Broadway star, say, Idina Menzel, but, for this movie, they are more then adequate!

Other performances include John Leguizamo, a righteous hoot as the verbally challenged, comically short Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Jim Broadbent, hamming it up as Harold Zidler, the owner of the Moulin Rouge, and Richard Roxburgh as the villainous, but clueless, Duke!

Performances are universally excellent, but McGregor and Kidman steal the show out from everyone's noses! They are the clear focus of the story, and are more than up to the task of carrying the movie!

Come What May

Director Baz Lurhman has traditionally annoyed me in the past! I wasn't the biggest fan of Romeo + Juliet, and I flat out hated Australia! That being said, what he has done with Moulin Rouge is nothing short of genius! He doesn't just make a movie musical; he makes a fucking musical experience! He fills each shot with so much color and movement that it is almost unrecognizable as a film! It's more akin to a theme park ride! Thankfully, he keeps the scale and story at a human level, and keeps the focus always on the characters! He carefully balances the film with a balls to the wall musical orgasm one minute, and then a quiet, humane moment the next! It really works!

And then, there's the music! Oh boy, the music! Not very much of it was written specifically for the film; a lot of are mash-ups or reimagining of modern classics. There's a truly inspired love medley that combines the likes of The Beatles, David Bowie, U2, Kiss, and others, an absolutely beautiful rendition of Elton John's "Your Song", and a haunting tango set to The Police's "Roxanne". Some songs, like the absolutely wonderful "Come What May" were written specifically for the film, and stand out, but the highlights come from seeing classics from the last twenty years being performed in pre-war Paris! It's impossible to not get a kick out of a bunch of tuxedoed gents dancing in sync to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Lurhman also acts the part of smart director when it comes to the music! He carefully balances out the numbers, so that some are your traditionally sombre ballads, while some are just flat out hilarious! This is possibly the best example of how to use music from today in period piece! Take notes A Knight's Tale! 

Lurhman has reinvented the cinematic musical with Moulin Rouge! In an age where movie musicals are all sad sack Broadway adaptations or something involving Hannah Montana, at least we have something like this fall back on! I honestly can't believe I put off seeing this film until now! I had no idea what I was missing!

On A Whole New Level


  1. A bit of Hatter Trivia for you: in honour of this truly wonderful film, Lady Hatter walked down the aisle at our wedding to a string quartet version of "Your Song"

    (Great post on a great flick bro!)

  2. God I love that film. Gonna have to crack it out again soon. It's sooo effin' pretty and the soundtrack is infectious. One of the few musicals I really love.

    And Mad Hatter, that is awesome!

  3. @Hatter: That truly is awesome!

    @filmgeek: Crack it out soon, and sing along!

  4. I didn't much like Nicole Kidman here...I mean, her breathy little voice just gets on my nerves...but the entire thing was such a mindfuck I'd hardly notice.

    And they decoded Smells Like Teen Spirit. Respect.

  5. I LOVE this musical. Having jsut read a really negative review of themusical I'm glad to find someone who really appreciates it for the genius that it is.

  6. @Hatter: That truly is awesome!

    @filmgeek: Crack it out soon, and sing along!