Click here 4 stars

Nicole Kidman

The 20th-century musical
Ornate film plays with times and tunes
to remake theatrical convention

"Moulin Rouge!"

Reviewed by Tom Mangan

(Click on the images to see larger version and credits.)

Moulin Rouge was beguiling from the moment I wriggled it out of its case from the video store. I could see that the tape had to be rewound, but the rewind happened so quickly that I figured the previous renter had given up on it in the first 15-20 minutes.

A full rewind tells me only the previous renter was a clod, but a partial rewind invites a tantalizing bit of guesswork: What would provoke the casual film fan to mutter "this is nuts," write off his three dollars as lost and hit Eject so early in the film?

I figured it it had to be when the ornate musical dance number set in a 1900 Paris nightclub launched into the chorus from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

That instant pretty much defines whether you'll like Moulin Rouge. If you laugh out loud and groove along, you're there. If you're mystified or dumbfounded, you'll want to turn to the next video in the pile.

McGregor, Broadbent, Kidman, LeguizamoThe story: A penniless writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), shows up in a Bohemian Paris suburb, falls in with a group of theater types with pretensions of revolution, and gets snared into their plans to create a new kind of theater.

Early on, the troupe is fighting for the right words for a scene: They keep mentioning hills and music and things being in the air.
DVD notes

As garish and richly produced as is the film "Moulin Rouge!' so is its DVD. DVD is the best way to see this film at home, because its fabulous look needs the high image quality that only DVD delivers.

The film comes in two discs and is loaded with material. Disc One, with the actual movie, includes a production commentary by director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, and cinematographer Don McAlpine, and a writing commentary by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce.

Disc two includes a making-of documentary and tons of other material, including features on nearly every aspect of the movie. Really, for most fans it is overkill. But for the most devoted -- the people who saw it eight times in the theater, for instance -- it will be pure gravy.

-- John Orr

At the precise moment you expect them to break into "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music," McGregor does.

It's a hilarious and incongruous scene that sets the mind calculating ... "Well, that song could have existed in 1900 ..."

Christian and his compatriots, inspired by the tune's beauty, hatch a plot to get the owner of the nearby Moulin Rouge nightclub to invest in their musical. The film's tone unfolds at the Moulin Rouge -- almost all the songs are cultural touchstones made famous by the likes of Madonna and Marilyn Monroe.

Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor It's there that we meet the shimmering star of Moulin Rouge, Satine -- Nicole Kidman, in the sexiest role of her career. Satine is a beautiful, doomed courtesan desired by any man with an ounce of heterosexuality in him, but especially lusted after by McGregor and the aristocrat who becomes his rival.

The story unfolds along familiar lines, with poor boy and rich man vying for Satine's affections. The late-century pop songs meld into the script so exquisitely that you forget you've seen this story a thousand times before. On one level it's comedy -- Elton John's "Your Song" and Madonna's "Like a Virgin" bring chuckles at first -- but on another level it's music driving the plot.

Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor Putting modern pop songs in a movie set 100 years ago (Satine singing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" -- the nerve! seems nutty on its face, but let's face it, it's no crazier than the spontaneous bursting into song of movie musicals of lore. "Moulin Rouge!" exposes that absurdity, then revels in it. What starts as a subversion of the genre turns into a celebration of it. An impressive achievement, provided you can make that leap from "Why?" to "Why not?"

DVD at Amazon.com
VHS at Amazon.com.

See cast, credit and other details about "Moulin Rouge!" at Internet Movie Data Base.