Moulin Rouge (1952) Poster


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Huston's "Moulin Rouge" was nominated for seven Oscars and walked away with two trophies...
Nazi_Fighter_David6 April 2008
This romanticized treatment of the life of artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec is literally one of the most colorful films ever made…

All the hues and colors in the palette go whizzing by in the Parisian streets, country homes, and cabarets of the late 19th century… Can-Can girls in reds and blues, against a misty brown-gold backdrop, flourish their silks and feathers in the face and soul of dwarfed painter who could recreate their essence on canvas, yet never possess them physically…

It is the tragedy of Lautrec's (Jose Ferrer) life which bounces around the rainbow framework… The cruel prostitute (Colette Marchand) to whom he gave his love and the young woman (Suzanne Flon) who befriended the artist motivate the narrative, from the crippling-fall in the home of his father to the death-fall in the dirty-looking saloon…

Brilliant work by Ferrer, fine support by Marchand and Flon, and the gaiety of Zsa Zsa Gabor cap the film…
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Beautiful, engrossing drama
Oblomov_8124 August 2000
Anyone who does not think that John Huston has a broad range as a film-maker needs to watch this and "The Dead." While he spent much of his career making gritty adventure-dramas like "The Maltese Falcon," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," and "The Man who Would be King," he also took the time to create well-crafted pieces like "Moulin Rouge."

Jose Ferrer has an astounding, almost unbelievable, performance as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, a painter from late-1800's Paris who was crippled in his childhood by a horse that ran over his legs. He now spends his days in the raunchy restaurant/dance hall populated by artists, dancers, drunks, and vagrants, sketching away at posters and portraits. Ferrer brings out Henri completely, depicting him as a man who tried to run from his problems using his art and his alcohol.

The film itself has a tenancy to be a little too flashy and gaudy at moments, but Huston manages to keep most of it grounded in the dramatics of the characters. Collete Marchand is also very noteworthy for her performance as a prostitute that befriends Henri. Marcel Vertes' production and costume design won well-deserved Oscars.

A genuinely moving film, a work of art in its own right.
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PROFOUNDLY MOVING and BRILLIANT; Ferrer was never better!
Kirasjeri4 June 2001
With the appearance of the 2001 movie entitled "Moulin Rouge" (see review) I went back to the Jose Ferrer version to add a review of it. Note that both films are entirely different in style and purpose; to equate them is to compare apples to pineapples.

This version, so well directed by John Huston, is not a wild frenetic musical but a very touching and moving character study of the great artist Henri Toulose-Lautrec, whose legs were badly mishappen and shortened by an accident early in his life leaving him basically a midget. His frustration at his appearance, and unattractiveness to women, forever scarred his short life that was curtailed by drink and other excess. Jose Ferrer was superb as this tortured yet brilliant soul; Ferrer also played expertly Henri's powerful father descended from French nobility.

"Moulin Rouge" began with a long scene in the club itself filled with dancing, exciting music, beautiful women, good friends,and lots of drink. The sets and costumes and were colorful and beautiful. After about half an hour we follow Henri home - and we see him, alone, so short and vulnerable, walking all alone through the dark streets of Paris. The contrast was most effective. Such was the REALITY of Henri's life. The remainder of the film focused on his unsatisfactory relationship with a prostitute he befriends, along with flashbacks to his privileged wealthy childhood.

Perhaps the most emotional scene was at the end. With Henri dying in his bed his father there tells him that he is the first living artist to be honored by having his work displayed at the Louvre. As he appealed for forgiveness for his previously harsh treatment, saying "I didn't understand", all Henri's old friends from the Moulin Rouge, as spirits (or hallucinations), visited him.

Like with the fine movie about Van Gogh, "Lust for Life", this even better movie is not necessarily always true to historical fact, but it is a cinematic classic.

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John Huston's Greatest
Hugh-1410 April 1999
This haunting and most beautiful of films is certainly John Huston's most underrated work. Having seen the film many years ago, I was astonished at how well the film has stood the test of time. The opening 20 minute Can-Can sequence is wonderfully vibrant and colourful and brilliantly captures the atmosphere, thus setting the tone for the great drama to follow. This story of the dwarfish artist Toulouse Lautrec is based on a novel by Pierre La Mure and set in 19th Century Montmartre. Jose Ferrer performs one of the greatest roles in cinema so convincingly and poignantly I was completely enthralled by this most moving of biopics. Colette Marchand as the prostitute is outstanding and Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing impress in small roles. Cinematography by Oswald Morris is some of the finest ever and brilliantly captures the atmosphere and the music by Georges Auric will have you whistling for weeks. This masterpiece should be reissued on the Big Screen and I would urge everyone who loves classic cinema to see it. Score: 10/10
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The Most Beautiful Ghost Story Ever Filmed?
Holdjerhorses31 August 2005
Certainly one of the most beautiful ghost stories filmed in Technicolor ("The Innocents," with Deborah Kerr, perhaps takes the prize for black and white.) "Moulin Rouge" the film is itself the ghost of Lautrec's life and art. An almost minimalist script (minimalist writing being as daring for mainstream Hollywood in 1952 as the Can-Can was for fin de siecle Paris) supports and moves us through the exhilarating three-dimensional world of Lautrec's paintings come to life.

Meticulous production design, set decoration and even costumes were created by Marcel Vertes (whose hands can be seen sketching for Jose Ferrer in closeup). Schiaparelli designed Zsa Zsa Gabor's costumes. Oswald Morris lit and photographed the sumptuous sets. The synthesis of these artists miraculously captures the essence of Lautrec's art -- yet still is but a ghost of his "real" world and life.

Each scene plays like one of Lautrec's sketches or paintings: not an extraneous line or element . . . seemingly simple and obvious, yet rich and deep and true. The artful script is credited to Anthony Veiller and John Huston from Pierre La Mure's novel (a ghost of a life in words alone).

Collette Marchand as the prostitute, Marie Charlet, with whom Lautrec falls in love, gives one of the most indelible and convincing performances ever captured -- almost as if Huston had found a turn-of-the-century French "child of the gutters" who happened to be a brilliant actress, instead of vice versa. Tempestuous, vulnerable, enchanting, exasperating, transparent -- Marie is a phantom of love; not the real thing. A poor uneducated child adopting the guise of the only kind of "woman" she knows. Ultimately a sham. A pretend woman. Self-destructive and destroying. Offering the only thing she knows: not real love.

Jose Ferrer beautifully underplays Lautrec and keeps his inner pain to a barely repressed minimum, except for brief, sardonic, telling outbursts. He is, after all, almost continually anesthetized by cognac and absinthe. Not once, as the artist or the actor, does Ferrer seek our pity or sympathy. His Lautrec is a ghost of a man, haunting the fringes of the demi-monde, then, after his success as an artist, able to connect with others only superficially -- until it's too late and he loses the genuine love of Miriamme (Suzanne Flon) because he can't see it. She too is a kind of ghost.

On his deathbed, in Huston's vision, Lautrec is visited by the dance hall ghosts of his beloved Moulin Rouge, the legendary club that still exists in Paris, in a surprisingly moving finale.

Zsa Zsa Gabor looks, on first glance, impossibly beautiful. Turns out she's just impossible: she can't act, can't lip-synch, can't simulate dancing, can't even move gracefully. Though carefully costumed, for the most part, the unfortunate "serpentine" gown Schiaparelli designed for Gabor's second number as Jane Avril reveals hips already as wide as a barn. (These used to be called "child-bearing hips." Though Gabor may seem silly as a Hollywood personality, she was smart enough to marry Conrad Hilton and give him a daughter, Francesca, thus assuring her financial well-being in perpetuity. And she and her "franchise," such as it is, have outlived everybody else connected with this production.) Miss Gabor's singing voice is dubbed by Muriel Smith, the first black opera singer to perform Carmen at Covent Garden. She appears in "Moulin Rouge" as the black Can-Can dancer, dancing up a storm and leaping into catfights at the drop of a petticoat.

George Auric's atmospheric score is also a triumph of mood and character: what Lautrec might have written himself were he a composer.

Nothing, really, is as it appears in "Moulin Rouge." It's not "really" Lautrec's story, but "impressions" of it. The production design, sets and costumes aren't "really" Lautrec in three dimensions, but shadows of his soul and world. Inordinately tall actor Jose Ferrar portrays the 5'1" Lautrec. Hungarian courtesan Zsa Zsa Gabor (birth nose fortunately cosmetically altered while a teenager) portrays French chanteuse Jane Avril -- with vocals provided by a black American opera singer who relocated to London. Some of the accents are real, most are not. Two French bit parts are played by Christopher Lee (uncredited) and Peter Cushing, Britishers who would go on to revolutionize horror movies in the '60's with their Hammer Film shockers. Even artist Marcel Vertes, so responsible for the look of "Moulin Rouge" actually began his career as a forger of Lautrec works.

Yet if nothing is "real" here, one finally must ask if the ghosts and demons that haunt us all, to some degree, as they do Lautrec and everyone else in this film, aren't "real" after all.
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" We Cloak ourselves in the Glory of our name as though it were a remarkable achievement to be Born "
thinker16914 April 2009
The artist Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, came from a grand and Noble family. Handicapped with a birth deformity brought about when cousins marry, he nevertheless rose to prominence as a post Impressionist in Paris during the 1890s. Created for the silver screen, by director John Huston, this incredible movie " Moulin Rouge " stars the very versatile actor, Jose Ferrer. Although it encapsulates the artist's brief life of 36 years, it nevertheless highlights the auspicious moments of his career and his lonely search for acceptance in and out of love. The film depicts the early painful years at his family's estate and his beloved Montmartre where other famed artisans, writers and philosophers of the day, came to share their thoughts. Recognition for his artistic ability, like so many, was slow in developing. While associating with the lowest street segments of Paris, he was always cognizant of the fact he would never be considered anything but a grotesque figure of a man. Ferrer played Lautrec as a tortured soul with an immense talent for painting as well as a sober alcoholic which would eventually destroy him. As a result, we see him at his usual nightly seat at the Moulin nightclub where the "French Can-Can" was created and would go on to become as world renown as the visiting artist. The movie also contains other notable stars such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Peter Cushing and Theodore Bikel. The result being a Classic film which is so superbly made it will live on as long as the paintings of Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec. It that, the artist never knew how well he had succeeded. *****
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The Anti-Luhrmann
Bobs-92 July 2002
I've always had a great affection for this film, although I realized long ago that it has its problems. Most casual viewers and amateur reviewers apparently like it, but it seems to rub some people decidedly the wrong way for various reasons.

Old-fashioned it certainly is, especially when compared to Baz Luhrmann's frenetic rock video-style musical. Though Luhrmann's film is in no way a remake of Houston's, you could legitimately compare the depictions of a night at the Moulin Rouge that occur early in both films. Luhrmann's objective seems to be completely different from Houston's. As flashy and exciting as his images are, the hyper-fast editing and use of pop music from the mid to late 20th century demonstrate absolutely no interest in evoking a sense of the time and place. What I like about Houston's depiction of the Moulin Rouge is the sense of atmosphere, the way a smoky haze can be seen hanging in the air, and the dances seem to more-or-less belong to the era. Interesting, too, is the way images from Toulouse-Lautrec's work are incorporated into this extended scene as he might have originally observed them. Those familiar with his paintings can recognize Moulin Rouge dancers like the tall, bizarre-looking Vincent DeSossier and "La Goulue," looking just as they do in the famous poster, and the sprightly black dancer "Chocolat." Patrons like the two women waltzing together serenely, and a pair of rather reserved Englishmen sitting at a table, are also familiar from the paintings.

I've always found Georges Auric's musical score rather effective. One of "Les Six," the group of avant-garde French composers who pushed the envelope of musical style in the early 20th century, he was a seasoned and sophisticated film composer who worked with Cocteau. Maybe the producers of "Moulin Rouge" thought an authentic French composer suitable for the project, and his score is sec (dry), not the least bit melodramatic, and lyrical in a way that seems to me distinctly French. This musical score may contribute to the reserved, stately, or detached quality that some reviewers see in the film.

For me that sec musical score seems appropriate to Jose Ferrer's portrayal of Toulouse-Lautrec. A pathetic figure, he does not beg us for pity, nor does the film itself turn maudlin or try to manipulate us to tears, which makes the final scene all the more moving. Some of the trick shots showing Ferrer kneeling with shoes stuck to his knees are a bit unfortunate. Too bad they couldn't come up with a better effect for this illusion. As for Zsa-Zsa… Well, nothing's perfect, I guess, but I don't think a touch of kitsch kills this film. Made in the early 1950s, it's not surprising that "Moulin Rouge" avoids the raunchier aspects of turn-of-the-century bohemian life, but I still think it evokes the era admirably. A classic? I don't know, but definitely a classy film that has its staunch admirers, including me.
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A Man Who Proved That Size Does Not Make A Giant
theowinthrop11 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
His was a rather short life. He was born in 1864 and died in 1901. But in the 37 years Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec helped change modern painting and advertising illustration, with a vivid but light line and an ability to capture movement. One of the best remembered Post-Impressionists, he managed to be the one to best illustrate the fin-de-siec age of Paris in the 1890s. While Monet and Van Gogh concentrated on the countryside, and Gaughin took his genius into the colors of the tropics, Toulouse-Lautrec concentrated on the theaters, dance halls (such as Moulin Rouge) and racetracks that the society of Paris frequented (the same society that would be shown in Vincent Minelli's GIGI six years after this film was made).

It is hard to find a really dramatic story about most great artists. LUST FOR LIFE (dealing with Van Gogh) dealt with that artist's failure to find any responding human being to his affections and search for purity. It also dealt with his descent into madness and suicide. REMBRANDT followed the 17th Century master into his years when his artistic ability was misunderstood (after he did THE NIGHT WATCH) and he fell into financial difficulties. THE MOON AND SIX PENCE was Somerset Maugham's comment that Gaughin's brilliance as a painter did not mean he was a decent human being (his anglicized version - Strickland - uses people right and left in order to paint). THE NAKED MAJA showed Goya to be a man having to navigate his way through a corrupt royal court. THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY shows how a titan in art (Michaelangelo) painted his masterpiece (The Sistine Chapel) despite his personal war with an equally determined Pope Julius II.

The story in MOULIN ROUGE is how Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had everything (talent, money, aristocratic position) but had nothing. For due to an accident in his teenage years, Henri fell down a stairs and broke his two legs. His parents were cousins, so genetically his bones could not knit properly: He became a dwarf. He could perform as well as a full grown man, but he looked the size of a top-heavy child complete with mustache and beard, and pince-nez eyeglasses. He could not attract women the normal way (we see his teenage female friend reject him when he offers himself to her). So he moves into the bohemian center of Paris, and starts painting. Unlike his fellow Post impressionists, Toulouse actually had money, so he never suffered for lack of rent or for no food or torn clothes (like Van Gogh and Gaughin occasionally did). But his loneliness, and apparent helplessness led to his becoming an alcoholic, in particular of the then popular but dangerous drink absinthe.

The subject matter of this film happened to get the right director. John Huston was usually seen as dealing with grittier and more adventuresome material (like THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRES). But Huston actually was very interested in art, and his use of color and casting is almost flawless here, choosing supporting players who literally look like Toulouse' poster drawings of them dancing the "can can" and other popular dances of the day. So is the choice of Jose Ferrer as Toulouse. Although the dwarf was half Ferrer's height, special braces were used to enable Ferrer to walk "normally" like his real life counterpart. It must have been painful but Ferrer never bats an eyelash.

Ferrer's turmoil deals with the women in his life. He is known to the cast of dancers and singers at Moulin Rouge (led by Zsa Zsz Gabor as the resident chanteuse, who sings the theme song of the film, "Where Is Your Heart"). We see him meet a prostitute, who briefly lives with him, but cannot live with him or without him (she sees he is a good, kind man who can provide for her, but he is a dwarf). They split up twice in the film (he seeks her out and finds her in a more natural milieu in the gutter). This almost breaks him but he recovers, and his most creative years follow. Then he meets a more acceptable woman (Suzanne Flon) whose genuine friendship and affection he fails to recognize until it is too late. Ferrer also played the artist's father, a man who fails to realize just what an amazing son he produced.

It was a first rate production and Ferrer got another nomination for best actor. It remains a good biography of a great artist, and one that is as pleasing to the eye as LUST FOR LIFE. It would not be amiss if both films were shown in tandem by some film society or other.
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The Real Deal
ccthemovieman-124 October 2005
This is one of the most interesting biographies I've ever seen on film.

Until I acquired the DVD, I never fully realized how beautiful this film looked, either. I was stunned to see how spectacular the colors were and how much it helped capture the flavor of the dance hall and the cobblestone streets of France 100 years ago.....and, of course, Tolouse-Lautrec''s great artwork. This movie is a feast for the eyes.

The DVD also offers an opportunity to do something I suggest other fans of this movie try: use the English subtitles. This way, you don't have to strain to understand the French accents, notably Colette Marchand's, and it makes this intriguing story even better.

Story-wise, it's a bit of a soap opera but one I still found fascinating, thanks mainly to Lautrec's dialog. He had some really interesting things to say, mostly in a cynical way. That cynicism, unfortunately, caught up with him in the end. Jose Ferrer captured this tortured soul about as well as any actor could expect to do. I'm sorry he didn't win an Academy Award for this performance.

Younger viewers who only saw the more recent "Moulin Rouge!" missed the real story. That movie was a farce; this is the real thing.
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Real Life Story Of A Famous Artist
Lechuguilla3 May 2005
Along with Gauguin, Rodin, Seurat, van Gogh, and several others, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is regarded as a major contributor to the French art movement of the late 19th century, known as post-impressionism. "Moulin Rouge" (1952) is the somewhat romanticized cinematic version of the life of Toulouse-Lautrec. As a biography, the film is "sketchy"; it focuses mostly on the artist late in his life. Though talented as an artist, an accident in his childhood left him with two stunted legs. At maturity, he was 4 1/2 feet tall. The result was a certain amount of social ostracism. Despite being from a family of wealth, he chose a bohemian life as an adult, and he spent much of his time in the seamy areas of Paris, where he would create sketches, drawings, and paintings in the cabarets and brothels.

As Toulouse-Lautrec, Jose Ferrer, together with the film's screenplay, portray a man who was extremely intelligent, lonely, emotionally isolated, and depressed. Much of the film centers on the Moulin Rouge cabaret, where he would make sketches of the patrons and dancers, and drink excessively.

Ferrer gives a highly credible performance. The film has excellent cinematography and production design, and interesting costumes. The overall tone of "Moulin Rouge" is one of sadness and melancholy, in which a talented but lonely artist eschews luxury, to devote his adult life to his passion for art.
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A genuine masterpiece
bd745 August 2000
It's colorful, it's inspiring, it's's an artwork come to life. "Moulin Rouge" is an extremely well-made movie about the life of the famous French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The first time I saw this movie it automatically became one of my all-time favorites. John Huston, the director of this movie, did an excellent job in depicting the life of Toulouse-Lautrec, a painter who lived a life of hardships yet became one of the most respected painters in the world. The twenty minute opening sequence is outstanding, showing a night at the Moulin Rouge, with its diverse performers. The sets throughout the whole movie are wonderful; you get to see everything from the brightly-lighted Moulin Rouge to the dark alleys of late 19th century Paris. The cinematography is just as wonderful; the shots perfectly capture the dance sequences. The performances are amazing. Jose Ferrer is great in the lead role. In fact, he plays two roles: as the painter Toulouse-Lautrec, and the painter's father--two great performances in one. Also, the actress named Collette Marchand gives a fantastic performance, playing the prostitute named Marie in the movie. Furthermore, it was interesting to see a then-young Zsa Zsa Gabor in this movie. She was actually pretty when she was young. I think that the most notable thing about this movie is how the director focused on Toulouse-Lautrec's sadness. In his moments of deep sadness, the painter was able to produce some of his greatest works of spite of his alcoholism and his overall gloomy life, he made some very colorful paintings. 1952 was a very interesting and noteworthy year for movies. This movie was one of the motion picture highlights from that year. **** out of ****.
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Life at the Moulin Rouge
edwagreen28 December 2005
Jose Ferrer had won the Oscar, two years before Moulin Rouge, in 1950s Cyrano de Bergerac. How he lost here is beyond me. His loss is in itself proof that the Oscars are nothing more than a popularity contest. Gary Cooper (High Noon) received the accolade over Ferrer and this was an absolute travesty.

Ferrer was superb in the role of artist Toulouse Lautrec. Crippled in his youth by a tragic accident, the film shows that money is not everything. Coming from a wealthy home, he is soon banished as the family is ashamed of him.

He leads a life of sadness and despair at the famous Moulin Rouge in Paris. He paints there and his paintings are representative of his frustrations and failures in life.

It is here that he meets a wayward woman fantastically played by Collette Marchand. Marchand was nominated for best supporting actress, lost, and was never heard from again. It is hard to fathom that Hollywood could not find challenging roles for a woman of her talent.

Zsa Zsa Gabor is effective as one of the women of the Moulin Rouge. She is even there during the scene at Lautrec's deathbed.

A heart-wrenching film of great suffering, so well played by Jose Ferrer. His genius is sorely missed in the motion picture industry. ****
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"I am a painter of the streets, and of the gutter"
Steffi_P20 October 2007
With the proficiency of filmmakers with Technicolor getting ever greater, there was a series of features in the 1950s about painting which mimicked a painterly look through their cinematography and composition. This biopic of Henri Toulouse-Lautrec achieves some of the best results to that end, not surprisingly as it is the result of a collaboration between director John Huston, himself a painter, and noted "specialist" cinematographer Oswald Morris, who went on to win an Oscar for his work here.

The opening twenty minutes of Moulin Rouge is absolutely stunning. We open with a lengthy dance sequence at the eponymous club, a highly stylised and rhythmic scene almost like something out of a musical. Huston and Morris' aim here was to create something that looked like a Lautrec painting come to life. The light is misty, the backgrounds an indistinct blur while the foreground is dominated by bold splashes of colour. The result is absolutely captivating, embodying the atmosphere of fin-de-siecle Paris and Lautrec's world with dreamy nostalgia.

Sadly, the film never gets back to these dizzy heights. The image and tone – that painting-come-to-life factor – is often good but never quite so great as at the beginning. Later on there is a very choppy montage of Lautrec's paintings, which doesn't really show his work off to the best effect. Another big problems I think is that, while Huston could compose a great shot, he was not the best director of actors. Jose Ferrer had a lot of talent but he often seems wooden here. Some of the smaller performances are just a little too melodramatic, and others are too dull. I also think it was a mistake casting Ferrer as his father as well. In the scene where Lautrec senior confronts his son in Paris, I can imagine that Huston would have wanted to keep them in separate shots anyway to emphasise the lack of warmth between them, but as it is it looks too obvious and artificial.

Story-wise, this is a pretty good attempt at showing a three-dimensional view of a life story. Behind the vivid, dynamic paintings Moulin Rouge reveals an insecure, self-deprecating artist, utterly assured of his own talent but thinking himself worthless in every other respect. It's a wholly miserable tale which is really quite suited to John Huston, who spent most of this period making film-noirs. It's also perhaps Huston's most personal film, as apparently at one point he planned to make a documentary on French painters.

Comparisons are inevitable between Moulin Rouge and Lust for Life, Vincente Minnelli's 1956 biopic of Vincent van Gogh. Both recreate the style of their subject through cinematography and colour composition, and both were made by directors who were also painters. It's interesting though that while both Lautrec and Van Gogh were depressive individuals who lead pretty tragic lives, Moulin Rouge is overall pessimistic in tone, whereas Lust for Life leaves you feeling uplifted and positive. The difference is that Huston was perhaps one of the most cynical directors ever, while Minnelli was much more the romantic.

Huston was a master at showing us grimness and despair, but not so great at poignancy, which is why Moulin Rouge will leave you feeling down but is unlikely to bring on tears. However, visually this is Huston's most beautiful picture and strangely it is this which gives Moulin Rouge a bittersweet tinge. This is one case where style over substance really pays off. Moulin Rouge has lots of little flaws but as a whole it is often enthralling and certainly memorable.
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A painter's pain
tomsview29 February 2016
When the critic back in 1952 thought up the line "Monotony in Montmartre" to describe the movie, he couldn't resist using it. It's a smart line, but wide of the mark. John Huston's "Moulin Rouge", the story of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, deserves more respect than that.

I have fond memories of this film. My father was an artist who was in charge of the 'front-of-house' display work for the film when it opened at Sydney's Regent Theatre in September 1953. Back then everything was painted and lettered by hand. My father who loved Lautrec's work was also commissioned to duplicate a number of his paintings as part of the promotion for the film. Although I was young at the time, experiences such as that may explain why I also became an artist.

Nostalgia aside, more astute critics of the film noted that the film struggled to keep up the pace after the opening 20 minutes.

So much leaps from the screen as Toulouse-Lautrec is introduced during an evening at the Moulin Rouge in 1890. He sits at a table doing sketches on the table cloth surrounded by frenetic can-can dancers, hair-pulling fights and acrobatic solo routines before a breathtaking Zsa Zsa Gabor descends a staircase to sing one of the most beautiful melodies ever written for the screen, "It's April Again". The whole thing is a kaleidoscope of colour, movement and sound inspired by Lautrec's posters; all this in the first 20 minutes!

When the Moulin Rouge closes for the evening and Lautrec wanders on his crippled legs out into the dark Parisian night, the contrast is stunning, and that is exactly the effect I think Huston wanted to create, the Moulin Rouge was the spice of life for Lautrec; the outside world was harsh reality: loneliness, rejection and despair.

No film about artists combines their story with their art as perfectly as this one does. The screen is filled with Lautrec's paintings and some of the settings for them are recreated. Huston obviously loved his subject's work and it is easy to see why. Lautrec captured life on the fly; his work had immediacy, no laboured slogs in the studio like many of the salon painters of his day.

The film traces a number of his affairs. Jose Ferrer achieves an honesty here that is painful to watch, and he suffered with those strapped up legs. He projects the feeling that he is constantly on guard against rejection although he can't help being as obsessive about his love affairs as he is about his art.

The script is full of insight and wit. I read Pierre La Mure's book years ago and I can't remember how much was sourced from there, but Huston was a brilliant writer, and I can see his touch in much of the dialogue.

Huston was one of the great storytellers. I always ranked him just after John Ford. I haven't changed that opinion much over the years, and this film is one of the reasons why.
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The film looks exquisite
MartinHafer11 February 2013
Whether or not the film accurately portrays the life and personality of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec correctly, one thing you certainly have to say about "Moulin Rouge" is that it is a gorgeous movie. Not surprisingly, it won two Oscars--for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color and Best Costume Design, Color. I am also a bit surprised it wasn't nominated for Best Cinematography, Color--as the film was exquisitely filmed--giving it a look and color that is second to none. It also received quite a few important nominations--including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director (among others). So, it is clearly a standout film for the era. I also suspect that the film might have been overlooked a bit over the years since, as an even more spectacular biopic of a painter, "Lust for Life" gained even more notoriety in 1956. Both films are absolutely gorgeous.

As to the life story of Lautrec, I am far pickier than most because I am a (among other things) a retired history teacher. I look for inaccuracies others might not notice. So, when I see Lautrec brooding CONSTANTLY in the film, I ask why they almost never show him smiling or acting human?! Sure, the real life character was a pathetic man in many ways, but he was a man--a three-dimensional man. Although Jose Ferrer did good in many ways, his performance lacked the fullness of a real man. He got the main and depression quite well--just not anything else. I also think that the film sanitized and over-glamorized Lautrec's relationship with one particular prostitute--whereas the real Lautrec had MANY sexual relationships--many. In the film, however, he hangs out with prostitutes and is quite chaste! Part of this, I am sure, is due to the Production Code. Sure, it was being relaxes in the 1950s--but not THAT much! Overall, a wonderful film but one that isn't perfect--but incredibly beautiful--breathtakingly so. For a great double-feature, try watching this immediately preceding or followed by "Lust for Life".

By the way, I realized why they changed Lautrec's life here and there for dramatic reasons, but he never fell down the steps and broke his legs. The legs actually were very brittle and broke doing much more mundane activities--such as falling out of a chair and breaking one of them. In other words, his genetic problems caused the break and the dwarfism--not some dramatic fall.
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Flawed classic
bob the moo16 October 2001
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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princy29 May 2000
This is the second John Huston movie I have seen in the space of one week, the other movie being 'The Maltese Falocon'and I am impressed. I sure hate to use an old cliche but they don't make them like they used to. The cinematography in this film was superb, and the way the camera was used inside the Moulin Rouge was a work of pure art. This was the first time I have seen Jose Ferrer perform and I would have to say that his talent as an actor was obvious, in fact it should have won him an oscar. Gary Cooper won the oscar for best actor that year for 'High Noon' and even though his performance in that was good, there is no way it was better than Ferrer's.
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There's Nothing Else Like It
Wuchakk28 February 2011
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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Absorbing biography
stevenmaven27 November 2003
Compelling story describing the type of life Toulouse-Lautrec had.The picture keeps you involved throughout;however, it is not a happy story.You're hoping for him to have a decent relationship and the desired happy ending.At the same time you're looking for realism and the picture's ending appears to be the proper one.Overall, a recommended look at a famous person's real life.(At least he got to enjoy some degree of recognition and high regard for his work).
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Most Eye-Opening Influential Movie of My Young Life
vitaleralphlouis29 September 2005
JOHN HUSTON'S first movie following African QUEEN, MOULIN ROUGE was hyped for 6 months with daily reports from the set in Sheila Graham's column and elsewhere. When it finally opened at LOEW'S PALACE at a 50% premium over the normal admission price the theater's 2400 seats were filled to capacity on a Monday night. At age 14 I saw a movie that would open the door to a lifelong interest in art, artists, France, Europe, et cetera. This was also one of the most engrossing dramas ever filmed; even though it was a fictionalized --- not true --- biography of Henri Toulouse Lautrec. Besides the exciting scenes inside Moulin Rouge, the private life of Lautrec is presented including countless scenes which grab the viewer's heart and jab it hard. Colette Marchand's Academy Award performance as the prostitute was on-target to the degree that none of the other 15 actresses who won Oscars playing hookers even comes close. The Technicolor photography was recognized as being the high water mark of color cinematography. Jose Farrar's scene in the Montmarte bar, demanding more absinthe, as the barkeep says "he comes here every night and reads that letter a hundred times.. you'd think he'd know what it says.." One of Farrar's many great scenes. So many of the characters in Lautrec's art are brought amazingly to life throughout the picture. No way I can overpraise this classic movie. Footnote: TOO BAD the recent and inferior Nicole Kidman movie --- an altogether different story --- had the same title.
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John Huston's best film without Humphrey Bogart
bkoganbing10 January 2005
I am second to none in my admiration for the acting of Jose Ferrer. A truly international star in every sense of the word, he effortlessly created characters of many nationalities. And one of the best is Henri Toulouse-Lautrec.

The real test for me is that I am the last to claim any kind of art expertise, but I can feel Ferrer's portrayal of Lautrec the man and the artist right down to the marrow of my bones. The frightening thought is what that life might have been like if Lautrec did not have art as an outlet for his tormented emotions.

According to the films of John Huston, Ferrer was fitted with a device on both legs that allowed him to walk on his knees. He could only wear it a half an hour at a time so I suppose he had to make that first take his best.

I love the atmosphere of Third Republic Paris that Huston creates here. Up for a few awards, Moulin Rouge took home the Oscar for Costume design and deservedly so. Huston also used music effectively, both the Can-Can of Offenbach and one of the great movie themes of all time. Known popularly in the English speaking world as Where Is Your Heart, it is lipsynched in the film by Zsa Zsa Gabor, her one foray into real acting.

A good cyber friend from France tells me the original song is titled Moulin Des Amours. Because it is an adapted theme it could not be nominated by the Academy for best song. If they had the People's Choice Awards then it would have swept the field. Percy Faith and his Orchestra had the big hit recording of it back in 1952. I would also recommend a version that Andy Williams did later.

That same cyber friend also referred me to a 1998 French film entitled Lautrec. It got mixed reviews here at IMDb, but I would like to see both versions side by side. I'd like to see how accurately Huston really did capture the atmosphere of Toulouse-Lautrec's Paris.

Colette Marchand was also nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her portrayal of the streetwalker who breaks Ferrer's heart, but also serves as a model for some of his work. The rest of the cast from Europe is flawless. Marchand lost to Gloria Grahame that year for the Bad and the Beautiful.

Ferrer had some stiff competition. He'd already won two years earlier for Cyrano De Bergerac, but he lost to Gary Cooper for High Noon who was getting his second Oscar. Also up that year was Kirk Douglas for The Bad and the Beautiful, Alec Guinness for The Lavender Hill Mob, and Marlon Brando for Viva Zapata.

This is Jose Ferrer's finest moment he gave us on the screen. And it's John Huston's best film he ever did without Humphrey Bogart. On a scale of 1 to 10 this is a 15.
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They made them rather better in those days, even the bad ones
jandesimpson1 August 2002
After the excruciating experience of the ear-splitting, corny and vulgar "Moulin Rouge" of Baz Luhrmann I thought I would take another peek at John Huston's film of the same name. Apart from being inspired by the same setting, the two films bear no resemblance to one another. Not that the Huston seemed very much of a work in its day but, compared to the recent monstrosity it has some things going for it; Oswald Morris's colour photography for instance; reds, yellows and greens, almost giving the impression of having been filtered through smoke, a wonderful cinematic counterpart to the art of Toulouse-Lautrec. He was to do similar marvelous things to Huston's later "Moby Dick". Nothing quite matches "Moulin Rouge"'s first reel which simply recreates a typical evening of entertainment at the eponymous pleasure house. Thereafter we are in typical Hollywood biopic country where everyone in varying degrees sports a French accent, which often seems to caricature dialogue already banal, such as Lautrec imagining on his deathbed Jane Avril saying, "Henri, my dear, we just heard you were dying. We simply had to say goodbye". Somehow however, as is often the case of the very best of "bad" films, "Moulin Rouge" has a way of sweeping you along with it. It is never boring or less than entertaining. It may lack the intensity of Minnelli's Van Gogh biopic "Lust for Life" but then Jose Ferrer is not quite an actor in the Kirk Douglas class. At two points the narrative is punctuated by montage sequences of Toulouse-Lautrec's art, delightful compilations enhanced by Georges Auric's musicianly score. It is a pity in a way that these minutes of serious cinema throw into sharp relief the almost unbelievable crassness of the sequence where the depressed artist turns on the gas to end it all but then picks up his paintbrush only to have second thoughts. At moments such as this "Moulin Rouge" is almost sublimely bad which is more than can be said of the recent film which is just plain awful.
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a romanticized version of toulouse lautrec's life and art
netwallah5 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
A romantic fiction based on the life of the artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, with Jose Ferrar in the title role. He seems to have been dedicated to preserving his character's dignity, which he does by managing the stature well, but even more by stillness, by underplaying, and by delivering the caustic self-deprecating humour with an exaggerated, drawn-out delivery that conveys the wish to appear careless and ironic. The pain that haunts Henri, both physical pain and loneliness, he shows with dignity, even drunken dignity. It's the gravitas of his manner that makes the pain more real to the viewer, without manipulative clutching after sympathy. The other characters are cyphers, figures from his pictures given back-story. One minor flaw--they show him painting, whereas much of the work is with pastels. The drawing scenes are very compelling and lightly done. The Moulin Rouge itself is carefully recreated from his work, complete with the major characters, Jane Avril (Zsa Zsa Gabor, splendidly miscast with her 1950s bombshell look and her inability to pronounce the letter W), La Goulue, the man with the Goyaesque chin and nose from the famous affiche, the can-can dancers, and everything. The sets look like his pictures, and the colours of the costumes too (though perhaps the 1950s costuming is a bit brighter than the garb of 75 years earlier). It's splendid, visually, and the two romantic segments, both disastrous for different reasons—first he loves the half-mad woman of the street, Marie Charlet (Colette Marchand), who uses him and leaves him heartbroken, and then much later Myriamme Hayam (Suzanne Flon), who loves him but leaves him because he has assumed rejection and she thinks he cannot love her. These stories are, perhaps, romantic fabrications, but in this film the losses torment him, and because he is already partly broken, he drinks an incredible amount and is swept away too soon, too sadly.
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One of the Great Films About Artists
jacksflicks6 April 2004
To me, some of the greatest movies are about artists. Stories about artists lend themselves so well to film, since the intensity which informs the visual arts is based on light, and light is the essence of the film medium. One visual art depicted by another visual art is thus amplified. Films such as Lust for Life and Moulin Rouge are made great by the very fact that they are films about paintings.

Moulin Rouge is the story of the great artist-caricaturist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Its excellence is the handiwork of John Huston and José Ferrer - Huston for his unflinching view of the pathos of the Parisian demi-monde, and José Ferrer for his relentlessly mordant portrayal of the tormented, self-absorbed artist who loved everyone except himself.

This is Ferrer's greatest role, surpassing his Cyrano, which won him his Best Actor Oscar. It's so typical of the Motion Picture Academy to get it wrong!
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Pages skipped and a fake French accent
Wolfi-109 March 2003
When a movie maker in a prudish society, such as America of the 50s, undertakes to show the life and loves of a figure in a libertine society, such as Paris of 1890, he faces the not so small obstacle that matters of sex are taboo. When that figure happens to be Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, whose life circled around the Moulin Rouge, this obstacle becomes a big hurdle, and the viewer is often left puzzled. How come the Moulin Rouge's patrons got so terribly excited about the dancing girls' long underpants? Did Henri really sleep in the loft all the time with Marie downstairs? The original novel by Pierre La Mure clarifies these things in sufficient detail - Hollywood skipped a few important pages.

Another silly Hollywood idea - and not dictated by the mores of the times - is to let "lower-class people" speak English with a French accent. We, the viewers, do know that the story plays in France, that the people would naturally speak French, and that all their conversations have been translated for us language-challenged Americans, but we don't need to be reminded of that all the time. And speaking of the audio channel, it would have been nice to understand the words of Zsa Zsa Gabor's songs - the patrons of the Moulin Rouge seemed to enjoy them; her accent doesn't help us either.
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