Monday, March 22, 2010
FILM #8: 'Moulin Rouge' (2001)
With 19th century Paris and its nightlife as the backdrop, Moulin Rouge perfectly captures the essence of human need versus desire. Nicole Kidman earned her first real critical recognition as Satine,the ambitious courtesan. She clearly wasn't ideal for such a role but as the film progresses we literally see her coming into her own. Baz Luhrmann's dizzy direction subdues its wow factor after an hour but it is afterwards that the love story takes true shape and starts to unspool. The songs are chaotic, loud and non-traditional but its lovely energy and a huge plus. BUt it is Kidman that rises most effectively especially when required to take duplicitous action. The scene where she lashes out at Zidler (the ever excellent Jim Broadbent)is stunning and shows how quickly her ambition turns to love.
Unlike most musicals, Moulin Rouge risks everything by segueing into real drama. Not content to be faithful to source material, Luhrmann earns full marks for presenting something fresh and contemporary. We get to see the various characters as complicated human beings they really are and not just mere one-dimensional products for the audience's amusement. No other musical in the decade dared to keep its ethos so firmly rooted in reality.