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Laramie Movie Scope:
Moulin Rouge

A wild and crazy musical

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 2, 2001 -- The first half of "Moulin Rouge" is a wild, exuberant, colorful, dazzling, inventive, romantic comedy musical, while the second half of the film slacks off into an uneven operatic melodrama. The first half works well enough for me to recommend the film.

The stars of the show are Nicole Kidman of "Eyes Wide Shut" as Satine, a beautiful nightclub performer and prostitute, and Ewan McGregor of "Star Wars Episode One" as Christian, the poet who falls in love with her. In addition to being good actors, both are good singers. McGregor, especially has a very good singing voice. In addition to the music written for the film by David Bowie, Craig Armstrong, Marius De Vries and Steve Hitchcock, there are a large number of pop tunes used in the film, including songs made popular by Elton John, The Beatles and Madonna. "The Sound of Music" is also a featured song in the film. One duet by McGregor and Kidman is composed of snippets of many popular songs.

The story has to do with Christian falling in with a crazy bunch of Bohemian artists in Paris in 1999 who are trying to stage a play called "Spectacular, Spectacular." Through a series of improbable accidents, the artists are able to persuade the Duke of Worcester to finance the production, with Satine as the star. The Duke's price is that he must possess Satine for himself. Christian and others put a lot of effort into preventing the Duke from obtaining his prize. Richard Roxburgh of "Mission Impossible 2" plays the weak villain of the film, the Duke.

The songs composed for the film are not as effective as the pop tunes. Elton John's "Our Song" is especially effective. As the romantic comedy in the first part of the film transitions into melodrama in the last act, however, the film loses some of its edge. The hysterical pace of the music and dance numbers, the motion of the camera and the vigorous editing began to wear me down. I found the film boring at that point. I needed more than just energy to keep me interested. The romantic chemistry between Kidman and McGregor works well enough for comedy, but not well enough to sustain the operatic melodrama at the end of the film.

Still, it is a marvelous looking film with some great musical numbers. The direction (Baz Luhrmann), writing (Luhrmann and Greg Pearce, cinematography (Donald McAlpine) and production design (Catherine Martin) are all the same people who brought you the hip modern-day version of "Romeo and Juliet" starring Leonard DiCaprio and Claire Daines in 1996. In many ways, the current film is even more impressive than that 1996 effort was. Also starring in both films is the chameleon-like John Leguizamo. In Moulin Rouge, he plays the nightclub's most famous customer, artist Toulouse Lautrec. Another key performer in the film is Jim Broadbent of "Bridget Jones' Diary," who plays Zidler, the ringmaster of the wacky goings-on at Moulin Rouge.

The film's cinematography, production design, set design and costumes combine for a film dazzling in its fully saturated color images. I can't remember seeing a film more colorful than this one. The colors, along with the exuberant music, dancing, acting, camera movement, lighting and editing, combine for a film with an incredible level of energy. I felt exhausted by the end of it, as I image all the actors and filmmakers must have been. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2001 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)