Moulin Rouge! Review

Moulin Rouge! film still


Break out the glitter bombs – Baz Luhrmann's gaudy confection returns for another bout of visual GBH.

Re-released in time for Valentine's Day and as an opportunity to bolster the dwindling stock of extravagant Ocker fabulist, Baz LuhrmannMoulin Rouge! is a ritzy, titzy spectacular whose mere existence seems to baffle more and more as the years roll by.

Its inexorable, sense-pummelling, eyes-as-punchbags mode allies it quite neatly to the Wachowski brothers' 2008 flop, Speed Racer, also pertinent in that both films – while substantial aesthetic achievements, depending on personal taste – are about as shallow as a puddle.

For those who don't know, Moulin Rouge! juxtaposes modern, camp chart hits with Parisian fin de siècle follies born from a brain-gasm Luhrmann experienced while watching a Bollywood musical in the company of a local crowd. It now resembles little more than the tumultuously edited marketing showreel from one of the retail park-based mega nightclubs which it went on to spawn.

Extras are herded into frame modelling frilly garters, push-up bra's and grotesque, trollopy make-up; the plot hinges on tawdry Shakesperean happenstance and dizzy-headed romantic aphorisms; everything else pivots around levering in as many showily kaleidoscopic show-stopping musical numbers as possible, and each one is less interesting and innovative than the last.

Played as camper-than-camp melodrama by its star-crossed leads – Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman – there's not even a scintilla of spangled sincerity in their licentious behind-the-scenes canoodling.

Placing its clearly good and original intentions aside, it's a story which is mired in obfuscating post-production flash, where the application of film editing isn't used so much as a way to place material in an easy-to-understand order, but to resemble the experience of having glitter fired into your eyes, point blank, from a defective t-shirt bazooka.

The film is based around the potentially laudable idea of looking back at recent cultural history through MTV-crafted nostalgia googles and toying with anachronism and kitsch juxtaposition  and while it may have appeared fresh and novel back in 2001, now it all just looks like a one big, brash and very, very noisy experiment gone wrong. Or horribly right?

Perhaps the film's cardinal sin is that Luhrmann just doesn't have any idea when to pull the final curtain. He lets his film wriggle and squirm long past its natural climax point, stretching thinner-than-thin material at least 45 minutes past breaking point. The incessant repetition of banal images compounds the monotony, while McGregor's winsome performance – which includes quite the wettest bellow of a crane-shot 'Nooooooo!!!!' to cap off the tragic denouement – is not at all suited to musical theatre.

It's interesting to see Moulin Rouge! again given that Luhrmann's latest – his 3D appropriation of American literature's untouchable masterwork, The Great Gatsby – is due for release this May. He's a certainly a director with an eye for striking imagery and way with flamboyant choreography. We've just got our fingers double, tripple crossed that he doesn't garrote one of the greatest stories ever told with his no-holds-barred opulence.

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