There Was a Film, a Very Strange Enchanted Film: MOULIN ROUGE thread

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!:smiley: 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.



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.


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.

Et vous?

PS- This has been tossed around for years as a possible Broadway musical, even with Kidman and or McGregor in the leads, but last I heard nothing had come of it. As with WKRP, I would imagine that rights to the 1001 songs sampled would be very prohibitive for starters.

I think it’s a brilliant film from start to finish. When Luhrman (who I already liked for his Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet) had the people singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I was fully delighted (the use of “The Sound of Music” was also brilliant).

I can’t think of anything about it that didn’t work perfectly.

And on an unrelated note, also wanted to give kudos to Caroline O’Connor (Nini, the jealous courtesan who dances with the Narcoleptic Argentinian in the tango number) who I thought also delivered a great supporting performance.

I had thought that the songs selected were the ones that they could get the rights to in the first place? Would suggest, at least, that the artists chosen would be reasonably open to negotiation…

Really liked some of the songs (“Come What May”), while others just served to pull me out of the moment because of misplaced familiarity. Spontaneous Elton Johnning apparently makes me laugh. Really didn’t expect the singing to be so good, so overall I liked the movie, but think its oddities probably doomed any musical revival it might have otherwise sparked.

Thanks for reminding me I have to get the soundtrack DVD again, since mine went walksies some time ago.

I remember when Moulin Rouge came out, I was working backstage in a theatre and it seemed like practically everyone I knew was singing the praises of this movie. My first night off I ran down to the cinema to see it, and came out with sort of a ‘meh’ feeling. A few months ago I decided to give it another chance thinking that maybe all the hype had influenced my feelings, but I still felt kind of meh about it.

It’s weird because in many ways it seems like exactly the kind of movie I would just love. I like the *idea *of it, I’m usually a sucker for that kind of surreal, artsy, stuff. There were parts of it I did really like - some of the sets, certain songs, Ewan McGregor, but other parts I found annoying. Like you, Sampiro, I was hugely annoyed by Toulouse-Lautrec, who was a pretty interesting and strange character in real life but was certainly not a semi-crazed Latino midget.

Overall - I’m still not sure either whether I like it or not. Given my druthers, I’ll watch Chicago over Moulin Rouge every time.

I enjoyed it immensely. But it doesn’t stick to the ribs.

Another example, for me, of why postmodernism has such a hard time making “great” art. Compare to Meet Me in St. Louis, for example. MMiSL is about family, about tradition, about America, about childhood–etc. For me, the strongest theme in MR–a theme that thrilled me and I think the film is worthwhile just for making this point so brilliantly–is about the universality of pop music. In such a rigorously pomo piece like this, the surface is everything; any human element that’s there exists only to support the surface conceit.

Again, a brilliant film, but somehow limited thematically to being very little else.

I went in expecting to be indifferent at best and loathing at worst (mostly because I loathed R+J, and it was the only Luhrman thing I’d seen) and I loved loved loved LOVED it. Loved it. There’s seriously not a single thing I’d change, except that now I watch the “Willow version” stopping the DVD with the fall of the curtain, 'cause I’m a sucker for happy endings. But I still love the “real” ending.

I agree that Leguizamo was a little…odd. I couldn’t quite tell if he was romantically in love with Christian or just in love with his poetry or in love with Love. In the end, it didn’t really matter.

The only quibble I have with your OP is that I think Broadbent DID play the role broadly, not straight, for most of the scenes. “Invest? AH, In-VEST!!!” “EVrything’s GOing so WELL!” - he had a sing-song delivery that worked great. The only scene he played straightish was when Satine tried to leave. But even there, he was, I think, *under *the top, so to speak, as a malevolent/loving Hades figure, with flames flickering on his face and everything. He also didn’t do his own singing - he was the only one of the main cast who had a singing double, a singer named, I think, Anthony Weigh.

I absolutely agree that the anachronism made the movie FEEL like the Moulin Rouge did to the people that went there, instead of being a photographic image of it, and that was great. Baz says in the commentary something like, “if we had a tinny piano plunking out the Can Can , it might have been more accurate, but it wouldn’t have made the audience feel what it was like to be there.”

That moment in the elephant, just after a very nervous Christian starts singing “Your Song”, and he realizes he’s still got it and Satine is hooked, and Ewan transitions from a nervous hopeful smile into his full glorious grin? Oh lord. Makes me swoony.

I love it. I think it came out when I was out of the country, or possibly living in a cave, because I had absolutely no idea what it was about or what it would be like when it arrived from Netflix. (My dad had ordered it.) I remember laughing so hard I practically fell off the couch when Ewan McGregor burst into “The Sound of Music”.

Also: the Tango du Roxanne is far, far superior to the original version, which I loathe.

Perhaps. Still, that scene gave my favorite line of the film:

Especially coming after Christian’s earlier description of Moulin Rouge:

I thought the Zidler-Satine relationship was interesting and bore further exploration. He was obviously her her father-figure (she makes a comment about having lived with him her entire life, an implication he may be her father, at least [if not legally then effectively] adoptively) and there’s obvious affection and respect between them, and he respects her for her mind as much as for her beauty. He’s also her pimp and uses her for his own gain, though there is no hint of past or present sexuality between them. (I gathered that the older woman in several scenes was Mrs. Zidler, again in effect if not legality.)

According to a pamphlet from a Tou-Lau exhibit in D.C., the man in the overcoat with the red beard and glasses in the poster At the Moulin Rouge (English translation obviously) is believed to be Charles Zidler, co-owner of the ML on whom Harry Zidler was based. There’s apparently no photo of Zidler, but he was an interesting guy: he started out as a butcher and worked his way into one of the most powerful important show biz entrepreneurs of his day.

Probably not – far fewer songs were used.

Also, it’s a different rights situation in a live venue; I would think that a blanket ASCAP performing fee would cover it all.

I’m with you. I suspect is was the use of so many songs that I already knew in other contexts that kept drawing me out of the film; plus I felt really manipulated by Kidman’s consumption for some reason. I watched it once; it was interesting; I don’t feel inclined to see it again.

I also love the movie, but not from start to finish. I find the frenetic pace of the first act almost unbearable to watch. I usually start the movie right around “Your Song” and continue from there. The ending is the best musical finale EVER.

I’d say they were aiming for Pythonish.

I’m curious: did the degree to which you liked or disliked Baz Luhrmann’s ROMEO & JULIET match that to which you liked or disliked MOULIN ROUGE? For me it did: there were things I really liked and things I couldn’t stand. Things that, to use another poster’s phrase, “took me out of the film” were the close-up of “Sword 9MM” when the gang members drew their swords and the choir singing “When Doves Cry”.

He has a new movie coming out at Christmas called Australia and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Marketing seems to be touting it as a straightforward big budget WW2 epic, but I’m wondering how Baz-ified it is.

Like I said, when I first saw* R+J*, I hated it. I’m rarely a fan of “updated” Shakespeare. I loved Moulin Rouge! right from the start. After watching the commentaries and really understanding what Luhrman’s theory of filmmaking is and how his use of anachronism to support the story and manipulate (in a good way) the audience’s emotions and adrenaline works, I decided to give R+J another chance. And, whether due to a greater understanding of Luhrman’s work or the additional years of growth and maturation I’d undergone in the meantime, I enjoyed R+J much more this time, although I wouldn’t say it’s in my top 10.

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I was stoned off my *ass *the first time I saw Moulin Rouge!. The opening 15 minutes were completely overwhelming, even though I was watching it at home on DVD (man, I wish I had seen it in the theater!). Repeated sober viewings only increased my adoration for it though, so it’s not like I only liked it because of my ahem little green fairy. :wink:

Can’t wait for Australia.

Loved Moulin Rouge. I think your reaction to the movie depends on large part on how in touch you are with your inner drag queen.

I got a big kick out of Romeo + Juliet. I’m a Shakespeare nerd, and I’ve certainly seen enough very traditional versions of “Romeo & Juliet.” The anachronistic stuff didn’t bug me at all. Luhrmann’s approach was a fun one. I also thought Claire Danes did a great job as Juliet. In most productions I’ve seen, the character is played as such a ninny.

I’m not a big fan of exclamation marks, but in this case it’s useful to distinguish Moulin Rouge! from some other movies.

BTW, TWDuke, I always think of The Duke from Moulin Rouge! when I see your username! :smiley:

I didn’t get to see it until a couple years after it came out, when I bought it. I love it, but could never really understand why Christian loved Satine as much as he did (besides the fact that Nicole is gorgeous in the role). I also agree about the shaky handheld camera style–those sets and costumes look fantastic–why not let the audience see them for more than a few seconds?!