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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
José Ferrer was transformed into the short artist Toulouse-Lautrec by the use of camera angles, make-up, costume, concealed pits and platforms, and short body doubles. Ferrer also used a set of special knee pads of his own design which allowed him to walk on his knees with his lower legs strapped to his upper body. He suffered extreme pain and could only use them for short periods of time. The cane he used in most of his scenes was of absolute necessity. This fact was covered in a LIFE Magazine story in 1952. See more »
When Henri falls down the stairs toward the end of the film, his legs suddenly appear regular sized. See more »
Set around the fictionalised experiences of Toulouse-Lautrec this is a quite moving account of one man's search for love and artistic acceptance whilst struggling with his own sense of remoteness brought on by his disability.
The film is a touch longer than I felt it needed to be (some of the musical numbers could have quite easily been cut) and occasionally seems to lose it's momentum but is saved by gloriously gaudy direction and a great performance by Jose Ferrer as the diminutive Toulouse-Lautrec.
The scenes in the Moulin Rouge don't really convey how outrageous this club must have been back then - but I suppose that says more about our society than the film. Having said that, most of the dances come across as saucy fun and give you a bit of an idea of the atmosphere in the club.
This stands alone as a well crafted film that needs no comparisons with any other versions of Moulin Rouge due to it's focus on the difficult love and remoteness of it's main character. That said it does have patches that drag and sometimes it is easy to lose your concentration.
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