I am in love with a movie, and that movie is "Moulin Rouge." This occurrence happens maybe once or twice in a decade, if one is lucky: a movie comes along that so dazzles, excites, and shakes up your notions of what a movie should be, so exceeds and surpasses your expectations as to leave you completely dazed and dazzled. For me "Moulin Rouge" was all that and more. Firstly, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor were absolutely brilliant. Their performances were two of the most human, beautiful creations I have ever seen any actors create. Secondly, the visual design was the most sumptuous, eye-popping, fantastical one I have ever seen. The colors were so bright and awe-inspiring that it seemed to be one, long, beautiful dream. And some of the special effects were so unexpected and delightful that I will never forget them. Thirdly, the score was absolutely brilliant. Blending songs that are classic standards, such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, with modern pop songs written by the likes of the Beatles, Madonna, Elton John, and even Nirvana, and then reworking these songs into operatic-sounding pieces of musical theatre, Baz Luhrmann, the director, has finally accomplished what we have been waiting all too long for: the first great post-modern musical. Recent attempts, such as "Dancer in the Dark," have tried but failed to accomplish this, because they did not have their full heart in the musical aspect of the piece. "Dancer in the Dark," for example, had only 6 or 7 songs, most of which were quite short. In contrast, "Moulin Rouge" blends at least 30 songs in its mammoth, brilliant score. Most amazingly, all of the songs fit perfectly, despite their varied sources, and the lyrics are so perfect you would think they were written for these characters. The musical numbers themselves are so fantastically staged and choreographed that the audience in the Ziegfeld Theatre in NYC, where I saw it, spontaneously burst into applause at the close of almost every one, as if it was live theatre. That is I believe the greatest testament to the power of this film. It made people laugh, it made people cry, it made people, most of whom did not seem to be fans of musical theatre, sing. The movie got an honest to God standing ovation at the end, much like I heard happened at Cannes. When the actors names appeared at the end, people cheered, as they did when the director's name came up. Do yourself a favor, and throw all your preconceptions of this film out the window. Whether you are a fan of musical theatre or not, I can almost guarantee you will, if not fall madly in love with this movie as I have, have an experience the likes of which you have never had before. And that is saying a lot for an age when completely original films are so few and far between. Yes, "Moulin Rouge" copies cliches from many different mythic and musical sources, but it does so only to deconstruct them, turn them on their head, and create one of the most satisfying cinematic worlds I have ever seen.
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