Where have musicals been lately? Movies like Sound of Music, The King and I and Oklahoma seem to have come out so long ago. Trey Parker and Matt Stone brought out a great musical called South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut in 1999, however that was not the type of musical most people were looking for.
In the summer of 2001, a "little" movie called Moulin Rouge would come out to greatly reduced hype. The movie was delayed from Christmas 2000 for reshoots and because Nicole Kidman injured herself. Reshoots are usually never a good sign for a movie, however Moulin Rouge is an exception to the rule.
A musical in every sense of the word, Moulin Rouge stars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman as Christian and Satine respectively. They play star-crossed lovers with a lot to overcome. The movie starts off with Christian recalling what happened to him a year ago at the Moulin Rouge where he found true love. This is how the movie begins…
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, who also directed Romeo and Juliet and Strictly Ballroom, this movie is phenomenal. The colors of the Moulin Rouge inside and out are striking and very bold. The reds take the forefront in this movie and the rest of the colors just give the Moulin Rouge so much life. The elegance of the Moulin Rouge is what the outsiders see, but the insiders see something far more dark. The Moulin Rouge, you see, is having financial problems. The owner, Fidler (Jim Broadbent), is trying to swoon a potential investor known only as the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) so that the Moulin Rouge can stay afloat and expand it's space.
The way to swoon the Duke is to handle him with the star of the Moulin Rouge, Satine. Satine has the sex appeal and manipulative resources to get what Fidler wants. Problem is that newcomer Christian, a writer who has fallen in with the bohemian musical group, has fallen in love with Satine. Satine initially pushes him away, but she cannot hide her true feelings for him. In the end, Satine must decide whether her love for Christian or the continuation of the Moulin Rouge, along with her career, is more important.
Christian is hired on by Fidler and given the assignment to write a new show for the Moulin Rouge that will star Satine. This show will make or break the Duke's deal to become an investor. The Duke also wants Satine to himself and even plans on marrying her. In secret, Christian and Satine grow to love each other while playing out scenes in the show. Christian is busy writing his show about love, not worrying that it's his own feelings that he is putting down and that the Duke may eventually figure it out. He writes songs that clearly are pandering to his love for Satine, but it goes unnoticed by the Duke until the very end.
Many other things happen in Moulin Rouge, but I don't wish to spoil too much. The biggest plus (in a plethora of pluses) of this movie is the musical score, done by Craig Armstrong (also of Romeo and Juliet) and the songs written by various artists. Toss aside the pop hit remake of "Lady Marmalade" for a moment and think more about songs such as "Come What May", "Your Song", and "One Day I'll Fly Away". There are many more songs that combine modern day songs in new and inspiring ways. An example of this an excerpt of "Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong" in the song "Elephant Love Medley". Each song represents feelings and reflects what is happening on screen. What's the best part of the songs? Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman sing them, there is no fill-in voices. Ewan goes quite high and I never knew either could sing.
If you missed it in theaters, you should do yourself a favor and at least rent Moulin Rouge. The critical juncture of liking this movie or not comes at about a half-hour into the movie. For the first half-hour the film is very jarring and very visually and sound intensive. Many quick shots are done and everything seems to move at a frantic place that makes you feel like you've just had tons of caffeine and the world is going really fast. Once Nicole Kidman shows up you will know whether you will like this movie or not. That is the only warning I can give you about this movie. Some will indeed not like this movie because of the beginning…but you must give it at least a half-hour before turning it off.
I was very surprised by how great this movie was when I went to see it. Fox has once again outdone itself in presenting a DVD set of great proportions. This simply was one of the best movies I've seen in 2001 and I certainly hope it gets some recognition when Oscar time rolls around. Nicole Kidman certainly deserves some sort of accolade for this or The Others.
Video: This film is presented in 2.35:1 THX certified anamorphic widescreen. The source is virtually flawless. The colors are vibrant and the camera work by Donald McAlpine is amazing. This is truly a reference quality disc in this category.
Sound: Presented in both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 sound, the sound is amazing. The DTS track, as usual, is a bit more clear and concise. Surround effects are used to a minimal degree, even during musical numbers which takes it out of a perfect rating.
Menus: The menus are easy to navigate. The music is very nice in the background. Not much animation in the menus, the fairy on the screen has dust around her, but the menu itself is very static. The overall presentation is very reminiscent of old black and white movies.
Extras: A multitude of extras are found on this 2 disc Five-Star release.
Audio Commentaries: Two commentaries are presented here. One is based on the production of the movie by Director/Co-writer Baz Luhrmann, Associate Producer/Production Designer/Costume Designer Catherine Martin and Cinematographer Donald McAlpine. The other is based on the writing of the movie by co-writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce. Both commentaries give equal participation to the parties talking. Both commentaries are very interesting and worth listening to after you have experienced the movie itself. I don't know if I would choose one over the other. Much like Fight Club it is very much worth it to listen to all the commentaries.
8 Behind the Red Curtain Branches: If this option is clicked on, during the movie a green fairy icon will appear a total of 8 times. The fairy then branches off to various shorts that take a glimpse behind the scenes of the movie section. One example is a look at blue screen effects used for the jarring, yet engaging, opening sequence and a look at how sets were made. This is a very interesting extra, much like Infinifilm from New Line.
The Making of Moulin Rouge HBO Special: Another in the series of HBO Behind the Scenes specials. HBO always gives good insight for upcoming films. This one is up to HBO's usual standards.
The Stars: An interview gallery with the film's main principals McGregor, Kidman, Leguizamo, Roxburgh, and Jim Broadbent. Select a cast member from the submenu, and get a short clip with movie and early preproduction test footage thrown in for good measure. Since this is a 5 star release by Fox, it's kind of neat to have interviews with 5 stars.
This Story is About: This is all about the writing of the movie. There's an interview with Luhrmann and Pearce with them speaking the script, Pearce reading an early treatment and text-only storyline and script comparisons dating back to 1998.
Cutting Room: Has a short 4-minute interview with Baz Luhrmann and Editor Jill Bilcock on the approach to editing and structuring the film, six different montages of abandoned edits and some early visualizations of 3 scenes.
Multi-angle dance sequences: Watch mostly multi-angled extended versions of "Tango", "Hindi" (not multi-angled), "Can Can" and "Coup De Etat" all presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.
The Music: Looks at composer Craig Anderson's work on the film and also talks to the stars about the music and includes an interview with Fatboy Slim. There is also video of the performance of "Lady Marmalade" by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Pink and Mya from the MTV music awards.
Design and marketing gallery: A lengthy piece on costume and set design and research into how they were done. Very interesting.
Over 10 Easter eggs: I still haven't found them all, but I know there are over 10 of them.
Final Thoughts: A classic in every sense of the word, Moulin Rouge deserves to be in your collection. Everything is top notch in this DVD release and is easily one of the best DVDs released in 2001. The movie is great and the extras are amazing. If you don't have this yet, go out and at least rent it (observe the half-hour rule above) or just go get it. Soon you will know the wonderful world of the Moulin Rouge.