Thursday, August 24, 2006

An Object of My Obsession: Moulin Rouge! (Pt 1 of 4)

This is the first in a four-part obsessively detailed look at one of my favorite films Moulin Rouge!. It's the closest I've ever examined a film for your reading pleasure. My eyes hurt so I really hope you enjoy.

Think of it as watching the DVD with a very chatty friend --namely, me. Or call it a recap, whatever works for you. Yes it's going to be a loooong article.

Bring your own popcorn.


Main Titles
One of my favorite sounds in the real world is curtains opening -- it's no fancy thing, just audible mechanics, a low hum. There's something in it that fills me with hope and makes me sit up straight. So I think all movies should open like Moulin Rouge! does, with those red glittery curtains parting, give or take the dancing conductor. Certainly more movies should begin with the title card "A Bazmark Production." To date there have been only three and that ain't enough.

Baz Luhrmann needs to quit all activities unrelated to movie making. No more Broadway experiments, no more vacations, no talking to friends on the phone. No eating or sleeping until I get another one! I'm dying here. The only other filmmaker who gets as big of a kick from dancing nutjobs and red curtains is David Lynch. And he doesn't make enough movies either.


There Was Boy...

John Leguizamo, playing a sad clown version of Toulouse-Lautrec, sings us into the film. Maybe he's sad because he knows this is the only masterpiece he'll ever be in? "There was a boy..." The boy in question is Ewan McGregor as Christian. Right away I love him because he's a) Ewan b) in Paris c) a writer and d) crying --and I love the sensitive artist types. He takes over the storytelling duties from Toulouse-Lautrec as soon as he's been introduced.

These shifts happen quickly in the film. I remember a lot of people back in 2001 thought Moulin Rouge! was way too busy in its editing and I both agree and disagree. Certainly Jil Bilcock, the cutter in question, is already getting a workout four minutes in. She's cross dissolving sneak peaks of the major characters and the titular dance hall. Shes interweaving them with Christian mopily typing his way through the framing device. Yet somehow this patchwork approach works. I figure most contemporary movies are just as busy in their editing but at least this one has an excuse. Any movie art directed by Catherine Martin (Baz Luhrmann's wife) can be forgiven for being easily distracted.

'Ooh, look at that. No, no here. Wheeee. Wait what's this?' It's all so gorgeous. I figure the cinematographer and the editor are just human --they want to look around, too.

READ THE REST.... There's green fairy hallucinations, detailed thoughts about the genius of Harold Zidler, Nicole Kidman's sky-rocketing fame, and much more.

Tags: Moulin Rouge, , , Nicole Kidman, Paris, Ewan McGregor, Oscars, Academy Awards, Kylie Minogue, cinema, DVD, Review, Film, editing, moviemusicals, absinthe, mashup

33 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

OMGYESYESYES! The moment I walked out of the cinema of this movie (opening night in a 600-seat cinema jam packed btw) I was forever changed into an obsessed movie loon.

(i'm making these comments as I read)

A lot of movies start off normal and then gradually kick into the hysterics, but MR is in fifth gear straight away. You do know whether you love it or hate it from the opening. Which is why it's brilliant. The opening of this movie (up until the Sound of Music) is the most brilliant opening except for probably All That Jazz and maybe one or two others.

I love the Kylie cameo! Yes! Not only is there Kylie singing there are multiple Kylies. That shot of the Kylie's lined up was used in the commercials down here.

The first big scene in the club, all the way up until Satine falls off the swing is just breathtaking. It literally sweeps you up. You certainly understand what it's like for someone like Christian to be at the Moulin Rouge, that's for sure.

I always found the Diamond Dogs/Four Whores thing odd. For fans of The Descent, Natalie Mendoza is one of them!

I completely love your bit about Luhrmann wanting us to forget about Monroe AND Madonna and have it be all about the Kidman. One of the great screen entrencas. "The French. Are glad to die for love."

You what bit in Cabaret as Sally walks out to sing "Mein Herr"? Well, Joel Grey's Emcee says something to her but I can't figure out what and there's no subtitles on the DVD. He's a menacing thing.

"(What? It's been five minutes. A girl has to stay fashionable.)" yes!

Great screen caps with the faces.

And that's it :(

OMG I'm loving this. So good. I was considering doing this with a movie or two but I didn't really have time to take up something that size. Maybe soon.

BTW, I'm saving all these images so I can use them if need be. It's hard to find good photos from the actual movie!

Alanna said...

Moulin Rouge pains me. Oh God. Anyone here want to create an opposing faction to the inevitable Rougies who will gush all over this post? (That sounded gross, sorry.)

Drake said...

Nat, bless you for this AMAZING piece on one of my favorite movies of all time! Very well done.

And this film made me respect Kidman as an actress. She has amazed me ever since.

kristoferrobbin said...

Woo-Hoo!such a brill article Mister Nathaniel.I've been telling my friend aka "The Boyfriend" that we should try absinthe so we can play with the Green Fairy/Kylie ever since I've seen the superb "Moulin Rouge".Nicole Kidman has never looked and will never again look this beautiful. Village of sin? Sign me up!I want to go to The Moulin Rouge...NOW.

Pedro said...

I do agree that Nicole's entrance is one of the best ever in the movies. As Kamikaze pointed out, the phrase "The French are glad to die for love" is really superb and accentuated the themes of the movie.

After I saw this movie, I watched The Others. At that time, I thought Nicole's acting in The Others was superior. But I re-watched “Moulin Rouge!” the other day, and now I believe that Satine is way better. And I also laughed when she made the faces of wilting flower, seductress, etc.

Nonetheless, I do find the editing a little hectic and sometimes it pushes me away from the movie.

Anonymous said...

The first time I saw Moulin Rouge I was indifferent. I seem to have been one of the few who was neither a 'love it' nor a 'hate it'. I was a 'meh.' I wasn't turned off by the editing, or the over-the-topness of the movie...but then I am of the so-called MTV-generation, the ADD-generation, so maybe that explains it? Anyway, I couldn't understand the movie because it was SO cliche and they tell you how it ends from the get-go - I was kinda scratching my head over what exactly I was supposed to care about.
When I saw the movie again several years later I fell passionately in love with it, though probably not until the last act or so. I just realized as I was watching it how caught up in it I had gotten this time around. How passionate Baz Lurhmann is!
I think Nicole Kidman is gorgeous in this movie but I was struck much more by McGregor. When I've gone back and rewatched individual scenes in this movie they've almost always been ones involving him. That's why I found the commentary about the relationship between Satine and Zidler especially interesting though. I haven't been back to rewatch many of their scenes together so I never made many observations about them. You mention a lot of things I'd never thought about, so that was good.

Still much more interested in Ewan, however. :)

NATHANIEL R said...

well, we'll get into Ewan much more in part 2 rest assured.

Noel Vera said...

Thanks for the email heads-up, but you're posting to the wrong guy; not a big fan. I do think Ewan was decent in it, but my favorite Kidman (and my favorite Amenabar) would be The Others, followed by Kidman in To Die For and Dead Calm.

Kevin Laforest said...

Best. Article. Ever.

I'm not even kidding. Reading part one was almost as pleasurable as watching the actual movie.

I'm kinda green with envy like Madonna and the others are of Kylie, I so wish I had the idea to do this first!

Looking forward to the other parts!

Trashbag Kid said...

This essay, Nathaniel, is an example of why I have been reading your site for 6 years.

I think your biggest strength as a critic and writer is your ability to analyze a film as a complete artistic statement, and not just a story with pictures.

I cannot wait for the next installment.

Ryan said...

...holy ...shit.

I felt ALMOST as overwhelmed reading that as I did in June 2001 when I witnessed rare, movie magic.

And it's only PART 1!

Anonymous said...

I. Love. You. Seriously, I love you. Almost as much as I love Moulin Rouge!. Well, maybe not that much but I. Love. You.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Imagine if Kylie had actually performed "Physical" like she was originally meant to.

I think the world would have exploded with rainbows and glitter due to the camp of it all.

brad said...

Thank you for looking back at one of my favorite movies ever!

Rodney said...

For the first few minutes of Moulin Rouge (up until Nicole Kidman showed up on the screen), I wasn't sure I would love it or hate this movie. By the end, I was thrilled, sad, and excited at the same time. I can't even remember how many times I saw this in theatres. I've rewatched the DVD dozens of times and even watched it with the multiple commentary tracks! One thing that I found the most revealing in the commentary was about the going back and forth between tragedy and comedy. This movie does that with such grace that you never forget what you're watching - ultimately a tragedy. Great recap so far. I'm looking forward to the rest.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nat, this is the reason why I come back to read you every day.
Moulin Rouge, Nicole Kidman, phenomenal!!

Kamikaze Camel said...

BTW, Moulin Rouge! is on tv right this second. Which is really odd because 1pm.

par3182 said...

how spooky - 'moulin rouge' is the midday movie today, so i'm reading your essay as i watch (except we've just moved past where you cruelly 'to be continued')

i wasn't a fan of the film when i saw it on the big screen - far too busy and headache inducing - but i find i enjoy it more on the smaller screen, although the slapstick and the duke still annoy me.

what i really admire is how nicole so enthusiastically throws herself into the film; her complete trust of baz at this critical juncture of her career is a huge gamble that really paid off for her.

(but i still think 'strictly ballroom' is luhrmann's real masterpiece)

NATHANIEL R said...

WHAT? Kylie was supposed to do Physical. As in "let's get..."?

Daphne said...

I don't get Moulin Rouge's appeal at all. Seems to me Bollywood does it so much better -- the slapstick, the tragedy, the dancing; without all those frenetic headache-inducing cuts.

@noel vera, yeah I love The Others; it's my favourite Kidman performance too. For a long time I mistook it for a Shyamalan film, I guess because of the twist ending. Huh, I gave him a lot more credit than he deserves.

daphne said...

P.S. I do like your write up much better than the film.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Nate. Great post. Moilin Rouge together with Pretty Woman were the first DVDs I ever owned. I got the two years ago as a gift for my 26th and I can watch them over and over again. My two favourite actresses at their best. Nicole' entrance is the best ever. I really wish she had left Tom sooner and kicked her career into gear earlier. Cannot wait for Fur.

spants said...

I agree with whoever previously said that reading this was nearly as enjoyable was watching the film. Once you're done with your dissection, I'll have a guide for watching the film. Truly brilliant, Nathaniel.

Nick Davis said...

This whole essay was even more scrumptious, funny, entertaining, and insightful than I had imagined... and I had imagined that it would be most, most excellent!! You are your own Green Fairy, getting us all drunk on your absinthe.

Joanne said...

I saw this movie 5 times at the cinema and became obsessed by it.It was the sole reoson I bought my first DVD player. Though I kinda understood it was a love it or hate it film, to this day I feel a pang in my heart when ever anyone criticises MR. So thank you so much for this beautiful celebration. I look forward to Part 2.

JavierAG said...

I wish I could write something half as in-depth and awesome about some of my favorite films.

Can't wait for the rest!

adam k. said...

Aw... (I finally finished reading it, I have been busy)... this has given me renewed appreciation for the lovely Moulin. And for Kidman. I am so mad again that she lost that oscar to Halle "look, in THIS movie they didn't even pay me extra to bear my breasts" Berry.

Do you really think Kidman's perf here and here alone (no cheating with 2001) is better than Watts' in Mulholland? If so, wow. You must really love it. It has been growing on me all the time. Originally, NK annoyed me in this movie and I chalked the nom up to the double whammy and the divorce. I actually (don't hit me!) wanted Berry to win when the oscars happened. I was in a very PC type of phase. And my taste wasn't as good.

Plus, I'd always liked Ewan better, but yeah, with time, Nicole just gets better, and much less annoying. The little smile under the skirts was perfection, as was the exchange between her and Zilder backstage ("oh, my little STRAWberry! how could they possibly resist from GOBBLING you up?").
I love this movie.

Also, thank you for the inspiration, because I am writing a musical right now for school that hope might eventually be performed, and it is heavily inspired by Moulin Rouge. This gets me very much in the mood to keep writing (hint: this thing may never get written. I'm losing hope).

Anyway, keep up the good work.

magicub said...

What i'm gonna say it's going to sound stupid, but I saw this movie,on marcht 20th 2002, (I keep the ticket), this day i was making my monography to obtain my degree, and i was completely blocked. After I saw it, i felt so enlighted that two hours later i had completed.

I loved the red curtain, the FOX fanfarre in black and white, and then "The sound of Music". God,I love this movie

Kaushik said...

Dear Nat,

First of all, I need to congratulate you on your site and all the blog topics.

I had to reply to the Moulin Rouge! thread, because, the timing culdn't have been more perfect. I am a huge fan of the film, (I think I've seen it abut 200+ times)

The reason I'm replying to this post is because I'm converting one of Bangalore's (The city I live in) largest night clubs into "Club Moulin Rouge!" for just one night. The event is scheduled for Sunday, the 3rd of september, and preparations for the same are underway in full swing.

I'm talking Can Can Dancers, Green fairies, Harold Zidler, The Tabasco Brothers, the windmill entrance, the elephant as the dance floor, et al.

I'll post pictures of the same on my site once the party's done, and I'll share the link with you.

Cheers!
Kaushik

NATHANIEL R said...

kaushik --by all means, do let us know once you have the photos up. sad that it's only one night though given how much work it will probably be.

Kaushik said...

Will do my dear!

The reason it's just one night is because it makes it that much more exclusive.

Though it is by invitation only, we've got 3 huge billboards up, so in effect, there's that much more talk about it, and people are willing to pay to be on that guest list!

I haven't slept in over a week, and I'm fairly certain I'll have an anxiety attack at the event (knowing the drama queen that I am)

Kaushik

EviL PrinCess, EviL DeLLe said...

I LOVE MOULIN ROUGE!!! It's the best ever movie ever made in this whole wide world! I love Ewan in the show. Hehex... Feel free to visit my blog at:
www.adelle-renaissance.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Was directed to your post from The Moulin Rouge Message board. A great write up for a great movie.

http://www.suker-love.com/moulinrougeboard