The year is 1899, and Christian, a young English writer, has come to Paris to follow the Bohemian revolution taking hold of the city's drug and prostitute infested underworld. And nowhere is the thrill of the underworld more alive than at the Moulin Rouge, a night club where the rich and poor men alike come to be entertained by the dancers, but things take a wicked turn for Christian as he starts a deadly love affair with the star courtesan of the club, Satine. But her affections are also coveted by the club's patron: the Duke. A dangerous love triangle ensues as Satine and Christian attempt to fight all odds to stay together but a force that not even love can conquer is taking its toll on Satine...Written by
"Come What May" was written by David Baerwald for Romeo + Juliet (1996) but not used. In Moulin Rouge! (2001), it is newly written for the stage show by Christian. It is the only completely original song in the entire film. However, because it was written for another film, it was disqualified for the Oscars' Best Song award. See more »
The scar under Warner's eye switch sides throughout the movie. In the scene where the Duke calls Toulouse "pig," it switches several times between cuts. See more »
This film is crafted of many common narrative elements:
--The rich cad versus the poor lad for the girl (with the conceit that love is unavailable to the wealthy 'unreal' class)
--The girl who must renounce her love to save her lover (only to lose her own life)
--The notion of players as prostitutes (here bohemian dadaists)
--The setting of a play within a play (with the everpresent driver that the show must go on)
--The extended bracketing (the opening/closing curtain, then the open/closing whiteface observer of the 'mill,' then the retrospective narrator writing what we see, then the initiation of the absinthe vision, all before the inner play -- and that inner play has yet another level: performers in an Indian court -- who are doing a song about a song)
It also uses an ordinary convention of embedding songs in the action. Though one must note that absinthe hallucinations are intrinsically musical and similarly embedded. (Don't try this at home: thujone, the active ingredient in absinthe is so pernicious that is the only drug that has been successfully outlawed in the civil world. Think about that. Then imagine an absinthe bar on every corner and in every Parisian artist's life 100 years back.)
Having mentioned all the ordinary elements, this film is the most fun I ever remember having in front of a screen. Everything to the smallest element is coordinated to be a single, transporting vision. And what a vision! The camera has character here -- it is a performer, it dances, laughs, cries -- it is detached voyeur, then intimate partner. Everything is so original in vision, and so coherent it amazes. This is close to scifi -- it conveys us to an alternative not-quite-real world we can barely reach.
The actors play to a knowing camera-audience. There is an amazing sequence in the elephant when the Duke first interrupts the writer and the inner play's cast makes up and acts out the play in front of us. This of course includes self-reference of the current situation. We are so swept up in the exuberance that we lose our place. What layer where we in?
(A talking sitar that can tell no lie? A narcoleptic Argentinian? The dadaist Latrec as the story's stable center? A connubial elephant? -- Glorious prostitution.)
The layer shuffling happens again with a more edgy and sinister tone with a Tango to Sting overlain with other music and emotions: the 'real' action with Satine and the Duke. We lose our detachment again because the layers of self-reference are juggled. The finale echos this.
Nicole does the best job of her career. She is so totally open here one worries for her -- I suppose this is the Emily Watson effect.
Baz is now among my top three directors. This is a near perfect film in execution. The one flaw comes from that perfection. Broadbent is a perfect Zidler. But he has played this same role before -- recently, and in a similarly nested play: 'Topsy Turvey'. It takes a small chip away from the originality if the film.
See this. See it twice in a row, the second time for the absinthe, and allow yourself to be ravished deeper than you knew you existed visually.
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