The Brunching Shuttlecocks
Summer 2001
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Moulin Rouge
by The Self-Made Critic

This is the story of a girl who cried a river and drowned the whole world. Well, perhaps not the entire world, but the intensity of her emotions certainly drive the world around her, an electrically charged den of sin known as the Moulin Rouge.

Director Baz Luhrmann has magically created a magical world of magical love between a young writer whose pen creates works of pure magic and a tempting temptress so alive, so appealing, that every little thing she does is magic.

The story is simple. Boy meets girl, boy wants girl, girl wants boy, boy can't have girl, they write a play. What isn't simple is the frantic setting in which this story takes place.

The Moulin Rouge is a big red windmill in the heart of Paris. It's a nightclub that featured the bohemian lifestyle at the turn of the last century, where decadence and passion rule the day. No time for a conscience, and they recognize no crime; yeah, they got dogs and Valvoline. It's a pretty damn good time.

The Boy in question is Ewan McGregor, Obi-Wan himself. He's a young, innocent writer, looking to enter a world of sin. His entry is hastened when a narcoleptic Argentinean falls through his roof and he meets Bohemian savant Toulouse Lautrec, played brilliantly by John Leguizamo. Lautrec eventually introduces Ewan to the woman of his dreams, Satine. Satine is Nicole Kidman, and the ice queen sends shivers of lust down every man's spine. She's so lucky, she's a star, but she cry, cry, cries in the lonely heart. Satine spends her life in a shell, never believing in love, until Ewan- who knows what a girl wants, what a girl needs- sweeps her off her feet.

Unfortunately, there's a Duke. And therein lies the conflict. He desires Satine for his own, and refuses to be treated like a chump, like a chump, like a chump, like a chump, like a chump, like a chump, like a chump.

This movie is unlike just about anything you've seen on the screen in a long time. Visually, it's stunning, almost frantic. The camera zooms and you fly like an eagle through the sets. The costumes shine in a myriad of colors and textures. Everything is unique and in your face. But as if that weren't enough, this is a musical. THEY SING. A LOT. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor sing, sing a song and sing well. And what do they sing? For the most part, they sing a weird mix of pop songs and standards: Roxanne. Like a Virgin. Smells Like Teen Spirit. Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend. The Show Must Go On. And many others.

And you hear these songs as if for the first time all over again.

Word to the wise. This movie is it's own genre. Many people who see it love it. Many others like it a heck of a lot. Some absolutely hate it and walk out after twenty minutes. The opening sequence is more uncontrollable than an MTV Video shot on speed. It's an attack on the senses that will leave you either breathless with hedonistic excitement or storming out the door demanding your money back. You should be able to tell which of these two categories you belong to, and consider yourself warned if you know you'll be in the second category and yet brave the movie anyway. It is not for everyone.

But it is for many, and for some it is a true spark of originality and life that they've been begging for. "Give me something I'm not expecting!" they cry, and Baz replies with this work of art.

I don't mean to give you the impression that it's perfect. It may be slightly too erratic for its own good. But I'll take this baby over a hundred Pearl Harbors any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

So see the movie, but not if you have a heart condition, are currently pregnant, or are prone to fits and seizures. This is not a film for the timid.

In the end, I bestow 3 5/6 Babylons upon Moulin Rouge. Quite the show, quite the show.


Editor's Note:

Just now when SMC dropped this review off in my office, he was humming "Silly Love Songs." This movie should be banned.


Moulin Rouge
Rated: PG-13
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, Sting, Kurt Cobain, Madonna, Freddie Mercury and DeBarge. Yes, DeBarge. They're cool again. Yes they are.