Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Genre: Romantic Drama and Musical Running Time: 2 hrs. 7 min.

Release Date: June 1st, 2001 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Baz Luhrmann Actors: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, Garry McDonald, Jacek Koman, Natalie Mendoza, David Wenham




ith the general look of Paris in 1900, but augmented with extensive computer-generated imagery, rapidly zooming camera movements, and odd angles, while also heavily manipulated by filters and vivid colors, the film creates an incredibly offbeat, bizarre, continual assault to the senses. It’s a musical, yet it feels as if attempting to take the styling of Tim Burton or Caro and Jeunet to excessive, trippy new highs (it’s also a story within a story within a story). It’s exaggerated to such extremes that it’s borderline grotesque.

The story proper is set in the village of Montmartre, where the Moulin Rouge nightclub stands, ruled by Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent). It’s a place for the rich and famous to come to mingle with the pleasures of the underworld – where courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman), the sparkling diamond, the star of the place, steals the attention of lovelorn, tragically impoverished writer Christian (Ewan McGregor), who has been fixated on romance and true love his entire life. But although it’s love at first sight for the poet, he has competition from one of Zidler’s investors, the influential Duke (Richard Roxburgh).

The music is a mix of everything from “The Sound of Music” and “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” to the pop hits of Nirvana and Madonna, rapidly switching from one genre and style to another, sometimes arranged and remixed so uniquely that they’re almost unrecognizable. And the editing never lets up, matching the eclectic musical selections with slow-motion, sudden close-ups, sped-up movements, unexpected cuts, and all manner of overwrought distortions. The vibe is intermittently like “Cabaret,” but twisted around and sped up to the point of incomparable freakishness; nearly every shot appears as if arranged through a kaleidoscope.

In an effort to be absolutely unlike anything else, the picture goes on to mix comical sexuality with slapstick (complete with goofy sound effects) and dreamlike singing and dancing numbers; so much of it is fantasy that it’s occasionally difficult to follow the primary storyline. There’s certainly little reality to the madcap shenanigans. Even the quieter moments – as few of them as there are – seem out of place, as if additional dream sequences in a flamboyant, nightmarish cartoon.

Nevertheless, the persistence in dilettantish visuals and the random crooning grow steadily more engaging. A few of the numbers are even electrifying. Despite the rocky start – the abrasive introduction of the hallucinogenic effects – somehow the unconventional tactics work. The overemphasized expressions, sudden outbursts, noirish narration, high-contrast lighting, neon glows, radiant makeup and costuming, and practically impromptu, terribly lavish numbers become more and more absorbing. The considerable quirkiness and inventiveness win out, as does the fairytale romance (a hint of which follows the tragedy of “Camille”), culminating in an opulent, Bollywood-like show-stopper, complete with humor, tears, and extra musical chaos for good measure. “Love is like oxygen!”

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10