Part of Twickster’s Son of Musicals thread for those not familiar.
When I first heard that Moulin Rouge was being made as a big budget big star musical I thought they were remaking the 1952 Jose Ferrer movieabout Toulouse-Lautrec. I always liked that movie- even Zsa Zsa gave a great performance. Of course I was wrong, though Toulouse-Lautrec is a character.
As mentioned in an earlier musicals thread, I saw this movie twice at the theater. I own it on DVD and I own both of the soundtracks that came out, and I’ve listened to the music and watched the movie several times… and I still don’t know whether or not I like it! It’s definitely innovative, it most certainly has its moments.
It’s only real connection to historical events is that there really was a decadent Montmartre nightclub called the Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill in case anyone doesn’t know) the anachronisms and historical inaccuracies don’t bother me, save for one: I can’t stand John Leguizamo’s Toulouse-Lautrec. That’s probably some fealty to Jose Ferrer- no idea why Leguizamo portrays the him as a giggling silly twit (not to mention gay seeming, an odd choice considering that the real TL would check into brothels like they were hotels). But then this isn’t 1776, it’s not supposed to be a real timepiece about the 1890s zeitgeist (though perhaps it is in some ways) but a musical comedy drama.
THINGS I LIKED
The Music of course, particularly
Elephant Love Song (YouTube- audio with still images) is damned near impossible not to like. Some of my favorite songs, a few I’ll admit I’ve never heard outside of that musical, and imho (many people disagree) McGregor and Kidman have very pleasant voices.
Satine’s entrance (Diamonds medley)- and Nicole was beyond lovely
Come What May- great version
and probably my single favorite moment-
The Roxanne Tango- possibly the most brilliant rearrangement ever made of a pop song into another format, not to mention one of the greatest choreographed dance scenes in the past generation.
I thought the break-out star- another ymmv- was Jim Broadbent. He was great as Zidler, and of all the actors seemed to play the part the most “straight”. I even like his singing, from the wonderful absurdity of a portly middle aged man singing Like a Virgin to the relatively straightforward singing of Queen’s The Show Must Go On (second only to Roxanne as my favorite musical moment). He’s who I want to be in a few years. (I only knew him from a couple of minor performances before that movie but since then I’ve become a fan- he’s a chameleon like Johnny Depp or Day-Lewis- if I read his next role was going to be a gay honky-tonk fiddle player with measles or that he was going to play King Lear I’d know that either way he was going to bring it his all- catch him in Longford if you haven’t already for a great dramatic performance, or even as Mr. Boo in Little Voice.) I couldn’t believe he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for Zidler (though he won a BAFTA).
Richard Roxburgh as the Duke- also magnifique, though the rodentine (if that’s a word) appearance was a bit overdone. The sets were spectacular spectacular as well.
Strangely in some ways I think they captured the heart and soul of Montmartre better than if they’d made a straight period movie. While wild as hell by Euro standards of the era, Montmartre would seem pretty tame to a post Studio 54 generation.
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE
As mentioned above, Leguizamo played Toulouse-Lautrec as a borderline retarded addicted hobbit who’d seem more at home in a British pantomime troop. Broadbent played Zidler (save for in Like a Virgin) (not available on YouTube except audio) seriously. This was a problem I had with the entire movie- it couldn’t seem to tell if it wanted to be arthouse, absurdist, serious, melodrama, or what exactly, so it jumps back and forth by genre constantly. Since some of the scenes were dramatic, I’ll treat it as such and critique its plot as if critiquing drama:
I hated Christian. Odd to say, since he’s the gorgeous young hero, but he’s a horse’s ass. I thought his taking Satine from the Duke was extraordinarily selfish- he’s not only penniless, he’s a drifter trying to make sense of life. You just know that had she not had consumption he’d probably have ended up dropping her for the first prettier Helena Bonham Carter pretentious she-twit to come along, while, as the Duke says, she could stick with him for a while and by the time he tired of her or she of him she’d be set for life- always good for a courtesan.
Well, hard to take the plot too seriously, so I’ll just add one other thing I loathed-
The first fifteen minutes or so-
KEEP. THAT. CAMERA. STILL. OR. I’M. GOING. TO. *@#$**ING. GARROTE. YOU. Damn I hated the handheld affect in the openings and other scenes.
The “weird for weird’s sake” scenes and touches irked me. I think it was Steve Martin who said in an interview “chaos is only funny amidst order”, and some scenes- such as the show itself, were chaos within chaos.
So, long OP shorter, I thought the film had real innovation, great music, some inspired moments and performances (none more so than Jim Broadbent’s), and a major identity crisis and some really bad moments (John Leguizamo will spend 2,000 years in Purgatory for example, all being pelted with rocks and garbage from on-high by Ferrer and Toulouse-Lautrec).
Conceding that it has many A+ moments and no real F moments, I’ll give it an on the cusp of B-/C+ (overall.