Director: Baz Luhrmann
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, John Leguizamo
Released: June 1, 2001
Viewed in theaters: June 10, 2001
Best Picture (lost to A Beautiful Mind)
Best Actress - Nicole Kidman (lost to Halle Berry for Monster's Ball)
Best Cinematography (lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (won)
Best Costume Design (won)
Best Sound (lost to Black Hawk Down)
Best Film Editing (lost to Black Hawk Down)
Best Makeup (lost to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)
There are a lot of things I really like about Moulin Rouge!, but there are also a few things I don't like about it. We'll start with the positives first. It's easy to see why this movie won Best Art Direction-Set Decoration and Best Costume Design because it is a visually stunning film. Every set, every detail, every costume is a feast for the eyes. Even though this movie was filmed in Australia in 1999/2000, I certainly felt like I was in Paris in 1900. I also really love the music and all the songs (probably because the majority of them were already songs I was already familiar with), which is a good thing since this is a musical! I would also like to personally thank this movie for only having the actors sing the songs and not sing every single line of dialogue, which is done in Les Miserables, a movie I hate and loathe with all my heart. (I wanted to go in liking it, I really did, but we're not here to talk about that movie). I own the soundtrack to this movie and I really like it because I get to hear the full versions of the songs. While a few songs do get fully sung in the movie (especially if they're sung by our star-crossed lovers, Christian and Satine (Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman)), there are quite a few we only hear a snippets of here or there, so it's nice to have the soundtrack to listen to the entire songs. There are so many songs in the movie that they made a second soundtrack, but I don't own that one. My favorite song is "Come What May", the love song sung by our two leads. It is so, so, good, the perfect romantic song. Whenever you hear this song, you just want to burst out and sing it. Well, I do anyway. ("Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing? Telling me to give you everything!") I especially love how it builds up in the end with the choir singing in the background and then bam! It just ends. I love that song! It is the only original song from the movie, although it wasn't nominated for a Best Song Oscar (as you can tell it wasn't from the list above of nominations it received). This is because the song was originally written for Romeo + Juliet, the previous movie Luhrmann had directed, but it was never used. Therefore, it was ineligible, although I don't see what the big deal was. I think it should have been nominated! It would have won! It's kind of ironic that the big musical of that year didn't get any Oscar music nominations.
I think they tried to get all the young MTV audience to see the film with getting five big music stars (Christina Aguliera, Pink, Mya, L'il Kim, and Missy Eliot) to sing Lady Marmalade (and I will admit, at first I had no idea this was a cover of a Patti Labelle song!) The song is actually in the movie for about a minute, if that. It might be longer, but they definitely do not play the entire thing. I remember this video being on MTV all the time when it was released. It's super cringe-worthy if you go back now and watch it. The only good part is Christina's over the top voice and crazy-ass curly blonde wig. I think it was also released as a single on the radio, but don't quote me on that. This song made everyone know what "Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" meant even if they didn't know a lick of French.
"Come What May" may be my favorite song, but I also really love the mash-up of love songs Christian and Satine sing to each other called "Elephant Love Medley" (which gets it name since Satine lives in the statue of an elephant. By the way, have you ever noticed it looks a lot bigger from the inside than it does from the outside?) It begins with the Beatles' "All You Need Is Love" and ends with Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" (I say Houston's version, and not Dolly Parton's because they definitely belt it out ala Whitney) with songs like "Heroes" by David Bowie, "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong", by Joe Cocker and and "I Was Made For Loving You" by Kiss sprinkled throughout. And of course you have the singing moon serenading them at the end. The moon has to be a homage to Georges Melies (right time, right country), but I am always reminded of Mac Tonight, the singing moon in the McDonald's commercials from the '80s. I know it's totally weird, but that's what I think of when I see a singing moon!
Another song I really love is when Christian sings "Your Song" to Satine. Being as this is a musical, it's a good thing I love so many songs! There's a mix up with him and the Duke (Richard Roxburgh), a man powerful enough to make her a "real actress" and if she seduces and sleeps with him, then her dream will become a reality. However, Christian is not the Duke, but rather just a lowly writer who wants Satine to read his play because she's the star of the show, "The Sparkling Diamond". The thinking is if Satine likes it, then she'll promote it to Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), the owner of the Moulin Rouge. Satine is acting like a damn fool in her "seducing", but when Christian starts singing, she immediately stops her barking and writhing on the floor and really takes notice of him for the first time. This clip is a great example of how visually stunning the film is...you see the titular red mill, the set of the elephant room (inside and out), the singing moon, and just the all-around prettiness of the movie.
How can that scene not a put a smile on your face? I'm not the biggest fan of Ewan McGregor, many of his movies I either haven't seen or just didn't care for, but I can't blame Satine for looking so smitten when he starts singing and continues to be enamored with him throughout the song. However, when the song ends and she exclaims that she's in love with a young, handsome, talented Duke, he has to let her down by telling her he's just a writer and she's not interested in him. Here is this super cute guy who just sang her a love song and the music scratches (it does, literally) when he tells her he's not the Duke and suddenly she's not interested anymore. Crazy redhead!
However, don't fret, because Christian does win her heart when they sing the songs in the "Elephant Love Medley" and they fall in love. Just like in Baz Luhrmann's interpretation of Romeo + Juliet when they fall in love by looking at each other through a fish tank. This makes the Duke, who wants the beautiful Satine for himself, very jealous.
The play Christian has written is the story within the story, but with much more Indian influences. It's the same premise as the movie: a young woman must choose between a poor young sitar player who loves her dearly or the powerful Maharaja. Obviously Christian took the saying "write what you know" to heart. In the play, the character Satine plays chooses the sitar player because she is in love with him, but the Duke is outraged by this and demands that it be changed so she chooses the more powerful man because it rings more true.
Now I will tell you about the things I did not like so much about the movie. If you can get past the first fifteen minutes, then you're home free. I say this because the first fifteen minutes are probably the hardest to get through. We're quickly introduced to Christian and what his story is and why he's come to Paris. It's not that I mind they tell this quickly to get to the meat of the story, I just hate the way it's shot. I swear, they must change shots 100 times in a minute. It's just very quick, quick, quick and it gave me whiplash. It has a very frenetic pace about it and there are certain times where I'm thinking, "What the hell is going on"? This includes Kylie Minogue as a fairy. (Yes, I realize Christian is seeing this because he had just drank some absinthe). I guess the point is to make like the viewer seem like THEY just drank some absinthe! Once Satine is first introduced, the cameras linger on her for awhile and from then on the film moves as a more manageable pace. It does pick us back in its frenzy state during the "Roxanne" tango scene, but at least that's only a few minutes and makes sense in the context of the movie.
Zidler tells Satine that she "must hurt him to save him" and that she needs to tell Christian she doesn't love him anymore and for him to leave. Otherwise, the Duke will kill him. She does this and tells Christian that she wants to be with the Duke, but he knows something is up and refuses to leave without learning the truth. He shows up during the big performance and finds Satine behind the curtain getting ready for her next scene. He demands her to tell him that she doesn't love him. Meanwhile, one of the Duke's cronies have found them and is about to shoot Christian, but the curtain opens and they find themselves on stage. Zidler, who is playing the Maharaja, tells the audience that he is not fooled and even though he's changed his disguise and shaved off his beard, he knows it's the penniless sitar player. You have to give him props for coming up with that so fast. The audience seems satisfied with this and is enjoying the show which is not the show anymore, but rather real life being played out before them. It is very amusing watching their reactions. When Christian says to the Duke, "This woman is yours now. I've paid my whore!" and throws some money down, everyone gasps. Christian, who has been hurt by Satine, tells her some pretty harsh words and walks off stage and down the aisle of seats. He's crying, she's crying. One of the main performers (played by John Leguizamo), who is in the rafters, shouts out, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return!" Satine starts singing "Come What May" and Christian stops and turns around, the starts sining. This is the only scene that really gets me. They're all singing and in love and everything is great and the audience is eating this up. The only one who isn't loving it is the Duke and he sees and grabs the gun and is about to shoot Christian, but his plans are thwarted when Zidler punches him in the face and he ends up tossing the gun which goes through a window and hits the Eiffel Tower with a clink. Everyone is happy, but then, oh yeah, we're reminded Satine isn't long for this world as she dies on stage in his arms while the audience applauds, thinking it's part of the show. Poor Christian. He really did love her until her dying day. Oh my God, I just went to Tumblr to check out what people were writing/posting about Moulin Rouge! and someone wrote, "I would like to die like Satine in Moulin Rouge: being applauded, covered in petals, and in the arms of Ewan McGregor." Haha, that's good, that made me laugh.
I was surprised to find out that Baz Luhrmann has only directed five movies in the span of twenty years. I would have guessed a lot more! Before Moulin Rouge! he directed Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet and after there was Australia and The Great Gatsby. I would rank his movies, but I can't because I've never seen The Great Gatsby and it's been way too long since I've seen Strictly Ballroom and Australia. The only thing I remember about Australia is when Hugh Jackman hosted the Oscars and talked about Robert Downey Jr. being nominated for an Oscar for Tropic Thunder and that he is "an American actor playing an Australian actor playing an African-American character" and then made a joke and said that he is "an Australian playing an Australian in a movie called Australia." Yes, that made me laugh very much. I would say with certainty that Moulin Rouge! is Luhrmann's most known movie (although, I guess some people would argue that R+J is). Moulin Rouge! is an insane movie at times and just never stops, but at least it knows what kind of movie it is and embraces it.