Moulin Rouge

Australia, 2001. Director: Baz Luhrmann. Stars: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor.

I think I went in to Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge with the right frame of mind, having read a letter in the Age saying that the best way to understand it is as opera: not a classical-music opera, but a modern confection full of popular songs blended together in the service of the story (which is what many classical operas were in their day), with big visuals, big costumes, big singing. It helps if you know the songs and so get all of the musical jokes, but they're not exactly obscure.

I don't think it's quite as good as his Romeo+Juliet, partly because it doesn't have a Shakespeare plot underpinning it; the scenes between the big song-and-dance routines were a little flat. And Luhrmann missed an opportunity by not extending the Hindi dance scene and doing a full-on Bollywood spoof. But those are minor quibbles. He at least has a style distinctively his own, which is more than can be said of many directors.

It's fun. You come out feeling like you've seen a Movie with a capital M—it's definitely one to see on the big screen rather than the small. And personally, I'm happy to go along with any movie that advances the narrative with the lyrics of 'Like a Virgin' and sets half its scenes inside a giant elephant.


First published in Walking West, 7 June 2001.
This page: 10 June 2001.

©2001 Rory Ewins