A fictionalized account of the latter part of the life of French artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) is presented, he who is arguably most renowned professionally for immortalizing the characters of the Paris can-can dance hall, the Moulin Rouge, on canvas. This phase of his story begins in 1890. Born into aristocracy, Toulouse-Lautrec moves to Paris to pursue his art as he hangs out at the Moulin Rouge where he feels like he fits in being a misfit among other misfits. His misfit status is due to his diminutive physical stature, his legs which were broken and stopped growing following a childhood fall down some stairs. Because of the way he looks, he believes he is never destined to experience the true love of a woman. That lack of love in his life may change as he meets two women. The first is prostitute Marie Charlet, who he saves from imprisonment in a white knight act. Their relationship ends up being a turbulent one, the downs where each feels the need to hurt the other ...Written by
A drama/biography/musical from 1952? My wife just wasn't interested. But I insisted that there's no film like the original (i.e. the REAL) "Moulin Rouge." It's a biography of the renown French artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec from the 1890s who had very short legs and grew to stand only about 4'11" due to an accident and bone disease. Although he was from an aristocratic family he chose to live alone in Paris to pursue his art career. He would spend time at a local cabaret, Moulin Rouge, where he'd find inspiration for his art, as well as fuel for his increasing alcoholism.
Although Henri (José Ferrer) was brilliant artistically & intellectually, he understandably had a poor self-image due to his dwarfism, which was constantly reinforced by various mean-spirited people. Yet, he discovers love for the first time when he meets a spirited woman bred in the cobblestone jungles of Paris (Colette Marchand). Will this love enhance his life or ultimately poison him? I'll leave that for you to discover.
The opening dance hall sequences are highlighted by Katherine Kath (the redhead) and a young Zsa Zsa Gabor.
José Ferrer is great as the protagonist with his commanding voice and interesting dialogues. His commentaries on life are brilliant and brutally honest, but also cynical.
The viewer REALLY wants to see Henri find true love, happiness and victory, despite his deformity, but his cynicalism and alcoholism sadly enshroud him.
The story is both entertaining AND thought-provoking. My wife & I had some good discussions after the film. For instance, real-life people & couples that the story brought to mind, the nature of existence as "unattractive" and unloved, missed opportunities thrown in our laps due to poor self-image and addictions, being a "has-been" and a "continue-to-be", etc.
There's another significant female character who shows up in the third act, but I'm not sure of her name (in the movie or real life). In any event, the viewer will notice that she's NOT embarrassed to appear with Henri in public like the pathetic Marie Charlet. This is an important part; take note.
Since the film is a biography it could only end one way, but I won't spoil it for you if you're not familiar with the true story.
The film was shot in Paris and England and runs 2 hours.
FINAL WORD: Make no mistake, "Moulin Rouge" is a masterpiece. There's really nothing else like it. It's the perfect antidote to modern 'blockbuster' drek. Disregard the fact that it was released in 1952, particularly if you have a distaste for old movies, as "Moulin Rouge" is a timeless film both hugely entertaining and thought-provoking, not to mention REAL. After watching my wife expressed how much she liked the film and thanked me because she would have never chosen it on her own.
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