I hate musicals… but ‘Moulin Rouge’ was great

'Moulin Rouge'
Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman are star-crossed lovers in 'Moulin Rouge'
Ewan MacGregor and Nicole Kidman are star-crossed lovers in ‘Moulin Rouge’

[rating=3]Starring: Ewan MacGregor, Nicole Kidman, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh
Director(s): Laz Luhrmann
Writer(s): Laz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

Let me start by saying this: I HATE MUSICALS!

With a few exceptions — The Music Man and White Christmas — I can’t stand musicals. I just never understood how all those people know the same dance steps, or all the words to the songs??

But Moulin Rouge is different, adding a facsinating spin on the classic musical mold. I liked it a lot.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that formula could work again.

Moulin Rouge tells the story of a young writer (Ewan MacGregor) who moves to Paris, France during the early-1900s to experiece life so he’ll have something to write about.

Shortly after his arrival, he falls in with a band of bohemian actors — or, more technically, they “fall in” with him—led by a dwarf named, Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo). They take him to a famed and elaborate night club called Moulin Rouge, where the writer meets Satine (Nicole Kidman).

The two fall madly in love, but complications arise as Satine was “promised” to the Duke (Richard Roxburgh), a rich but insanely jealous man who helps the owner of the Rouge, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) produce a musical that Zidler hopes will end his days as a night club owner and make him a legimate producer, as well as make Satine’s dreams of being a famous actress come true.

While some of the musical numbers are traditional, advancing the story by serving as exposition, most of the music and dance pieces are simply that — music and dance. Many of which incorporate portions and themes of modern songs — for example, “Roxanne”, by the Police. Elton John’s “Your Song” is used beautifully as Ewan MacGregor’s first singing moment, and he does a wonderful job.

The story is well told. There are no grand secrets revealed towards the end or surprising moments, as basically everything is known to the audience. However, they are not known to MacGregor’s character. As they get revealed to him, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Both MacGregor and Kidman to terrific jobs during their singing numbers, featuring surprisingly powerful voices.

The visual style was more than an eyefull. While the editing during the opening dance number inside the Moulin Rouge was edited with a nausiating pace — some cuts move so fast you aren’t give an opportunity to enjoy Luhrmann’s visuals. At times, it’s very jarring, completely pulling you away from the movie.

However, this doesn’t happen during the rest of the film. The first major dance number is a grand display, but the other numbers are simply more intimate.

This film will definitely win Oscars. I would be surprised if it takes any of the high honors — director, screenplay, picture—but it will most likely walk away with art direction, costume design, and song (“Elephant Love Medley” was great).

Now, let me address the comment I made above: Unfortunately, I don’t think that formula could work again.

One of the elements of this film that concerned me was that it takes an element of modern pop music that I HATE and, to a degree, makes is somewhat “legitimate”. It’s called — or has been “labeled” — has “sampling”.

Many, if not most, of today’s pop artists do not bother to write new music. They simply steal rythyms and tunes from old songs, insert new lyrics, and claim it as their own. Artists who do this today include: Will Smith, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys.

I don’t like sampling. I think it’s an insult to the artists who originally created the music, and it’s simply a cheap way for present-day pop stars to use an established tune to make themselves look talented.

While the film does this in a clever style, I don’t think it could be emulated. It was a one-time gag, that worked for this film, but any other that tries to copy it will simply look like they are trying to emulate the success of Moulin Rouge.

It was one of those films that was not technically original, but was unique enough to be a one-time glimmer.

The musical will not rise again as a result.

Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 2 hrs., 7 mins.

Michael Sheridan

Michael Sheridan has written, directed and produced more than a dozen short films under the banner of Maynard Films, and has worked as a writer for more than a decade for websites, magazines and newspapers.

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