Moulin Rouge


Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Written by:Craig Pearce, Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh
Released: May 24, 2001
Grade: A

“I believe in truth, beauty, freedom and above all things love.”  And above all things love.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Moulin Rouge cabaret club.  Run by the renowned Zidler (Broadbent), it is home of to one of Paris’s luscious courtesans, Satine (Kidman).  With the power to “make men believe what they want to believe”, Satine cannot allow herself the luxury of love and yearns to become a theatrical star.

A middle-class writer named Christian (McGregor) has arrived in town and his “talent” is soon discovered by a small theatrical troupe.  Asking him to craft their new musical, Spectacular Spectacular, they have arranged for him to meet Satine to coerce her to take on the title role.

Simultaneously, Zidler has arranged Satine to meet and court the Duke of Monroth (Roxburgh).  Monroth has agreed to provide the resources to make Satine a star and the money to put Spectacular Spectacular into full production.  His only condition is that Zidler sign a contract that binds Satine exclusively to him and as security, Zidler has put up the deed to the Moulin Rouge.

In a coincidental mix-up, Satine believes Christian to be the Duke and falls in love only to find she has mistaken his identity.  When the real Duke is introduced, Satine’s heart knows she cannot leave Christian and her life is to be torn apart.  Will she risk her career, her dreams and the Moulin Rouge all in the name of love?

Baz Luhrmann’s most recent effort, Romeo And Juliet (with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) is a personal all-time favourite and Moulin Rouge utilises many of the concepts he previously explored.  The costumes and sets defy belief and Luhrmann again uses fast editing (particularly in the first half hour) to turn the period-piece genre upside down.  Curiously, the story resembles the Academy Award winning Shakespeare In Love with its tragic tale of hidden love and theatre.

Bringing back memories of classic 60s musicals, Moulin Rouge is anything but conventional.  Despite being set in 1900, over 30 songs are used (some old and some new) with the highlight being Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh’s rendition of Madonna’s Like A Virgin.  You can’t do anything but laugh.  Current musicians also feature with songs from Christina Aguilera, David Bowie and Fat Boy Slim.

As I hinted from the opening phrase, this may be dazzling array of music and colour but without love, there is no story.  During the opening hour, I was hesitant of Kidman and McGregor and failed to see a connection.  Yet as the dramatic conclusion unfolded, the two combined unlike recent screen couples and audience members were left wiping away the tears.  This should serve as a warning to those daring to watch without tissues handy.

Moulin Rouge is the most inventive film so far this year and the entirely Australian production was selected to open the Cannes Film Festival two weeks ago.  Nicole Kidman deserves to be in line for an Oscar nod but the best performance comes from Jim Broadbent as Zidler.  With all the lavish costumes and make-up, even I missed some of the Aussie cameos - keep your eyes peeled for Kylie Minogue, Christine Anu, David Wenham and Garry McDonald.

Love is a word that can never be defined and yet is the single emotion that drives each and every one of us.  It’s almost impossible to express on screen but in very rare instances we see just how powerful love can be.  Moulin Rouge is one such movie.