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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> February 2002 >> Moulin Rouge!

Moulin Rouge!

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
3 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
February 2002
IMDB Name:
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Baz Luhrmann
drama, musical, romance
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 for sexual content.

Stylist at Work

Baz Luhrmann is a director with a keen intent to load as much visual style as possible into each of his movies. I have not seen Strictly Ballroom, but Romeo + Juliet was certainly a triumph of set design over almost everything else. Moulin Rouge!, another curiosity of titular punctuation, is constructed in a way that shows Luhrmann's lack of restraint when it comes to laying on the eye candy. Some of the visuals are bold and wonderful, but too often he goes over the edge into the distractingly silly. The film is a fairy tale, and I should probably grant all sorts of leeway for outrageous cinematic behavior, but enough is enough. The hyperkinetic editing by Jill Bilcock takes most of the energy out of what should be exciting dance scenes by cutting too rapidly from shot to shot. John O'Connell's choreography is completely lost in half-body framing and unnecessary perspective changes. The can-can scene, which I expected to be a bravura set piece, was a confusing mish-mash where consecutive shots didn't even feel like they were temporally related. I can't imagine how Luhrmann and Bilcock portrayed the dancing in Strictly Ballroom, but Moulin Rouge!'s musical numbers are in direct violation of Fred Astaire's golden rule of filming dancers: minimize edits and keep the full body on screen.

Moulin Rouge! does curious things with the music. This is, after all, a musical, scored with a smattering songs drawn from the back end of the twentieth century. There are moments where the lush, orchestral treatments are nothing short of spine-tingling when combined with the familiar, if unexpected, melodies. Congratulations to Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, both of whom can sing for themselves. Although his acting is as good as that of anyone else in the production, McGregor's strident sound is the opposite of the tenderness that these love songs need. Curiously, his sound reminds me of Sting's quite a bit, but it's the gravelly Jacek Koman who belts out "Roxanne". If there's a way Jim Broadbent's performance of "Like a Virgin" could be more different from Madonna's, I don't know it.

Despite my criticisms, the movie did hold my attention rather fiercely. All of the actors do a credible job, and the story has merit. The costumes and set design are nothing short of spectacular, making me regret all the more how rarely we are given an establishing shot to bask in their glory.

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Copyright 2002 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.