“I’m paid to make men believe what they want to believe”
‘Spectacular, spectacular!’ It’s donkey’s years since I’ve seen Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 hit film Moulin Rouge, I probably watched it too many times in a short period of time so I remember declaring myself over it but for a goodly while, I was very much under its spell. And giving it another spin now reminded me why. Its bold and brash vision is just as arresting today as it was over a decade ago and the sheer cinematic vision that it indulges in as sumptuous and inventive as any pastiche-jukebox musical (gotta love a Wikipedia descriptor!) made since, managing that rare feat for a musical of being nominated for best film at the Oscars.
From the fiercely romantic and indeed passionate love story between penniless writer Christian (a fresh-faced Ewan McGregor) and ailing star courtesan Satine (a luminous Nicole Kidman, to a soundtrack that iconoclastically cherry-picks musical snippets from the entire 20th century to create a fabuous collage of sonic invention, the film leaps from the screen with glitter and glee. The costume and production design (Angus Strathie, Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch) is lavish beyond belief, the choreography recalls a marvelous sense of Parisian decadence and the whole thing constantly teeters on the brink of overwhelming.
But it never does. Luhrmann anchors the hedonism with real heart and so whilst the range of influences might be dizzying, it always puts a smile on your face – ‘Elephant Love Medley’ is a brilliant case in point here, hugely entertaining and extravagant but advancing the story too whereas ‘Come What May’ remains as thrilling a duet as ever. McGregor and Kidman throw their all into this love story which is doomed from the start and all the moving for it and there’s cracking support from Jim Broadbent as the Moulin Rouge’s manager Zidler, manipulative but not truly malevolent and ingeniously, a Madonna fan. If you haven’t visited the Moulin Rouge for a while, I’d recommend going back for more, it’s still as exciting as it ever has been.