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Moulin Rouge

review by Zach B.

 

 

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 127 minutes

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguisamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh

Written by: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

Directed by: Baz Luhrmann

 

Studio: Fox

Retail Price: $29.99

Features:
Disc 1:
Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer/Co-Producer Baz Luhrmann, Production Designer Catherine Martin and Cinematographer Donald M. McAlpine, Audio Commentary with Writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, Behind The Red Curtain, THX Optimizer
Disc 2: The Making Of Moulin Rouge, The Stars, This Story Is About..., The Cutting Room, The Dance, The Music, The Design, Marketing

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround, Audio for the Visually Impaired, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Chapter Selection (36 Chapters), Two-Disc Set, THX-Certfied

Released: December 18th, 2001
Also Part Of: The Red Curtain Box Set

 

 

Even though he's only done two films before this, Baz Luhrmann is quickly becoming of my favorite directors ever. His ability to create an incredible visual world that heightens the senses complete with likeable and interesting characters all wrapped up in good plot has yet to be rivaled. His great directing skills and his frentic pace are put to the test in his latest opus, "Moulin Rouge" and like his "Romeo and Juliet" remake before this, it is about forbidden love.

Christian (Ewan McGregor) is a young writer who arrives at turn-of-the-century Paris. Christian quickly gets wrapped into the Bohemian revolution and meets an oddball cast of characters and friends, led by Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguisamo). Right by Christian's residence is the Moulin Rouge, sort of an underworld night club where the rich and the poor mingle for drinking, dancing, singing and in all to have a spectacular time. It's a place of expression, to say the least. While there, however, Christian falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, the courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). While at first there's some mistaken identity, the two get to know one another and start to fall in love. This, however, is where things kick into high gear. The Moulin Rouge is going broke, but Moulin Rouge's main man, Zidler (Jim Broadbent) gets financing from the Duke (Richard Roxburgh). However, since the Duke is putting so much money up for the club, he pretty much gets to control it... and gets Satine for himself. As Satine and Christian must hide their love, things become zanier and zanier... all complete with crazy musical numbers, wonderful sets, incredible costumes and a whole lot of heart.

"Moulin Rouge" has been getting a lot of attention because they feel that this movie is going to reinvent the movie musical. While this movie does feature a variety of songs from recent memory that do paralell the story, as well as a lot of singing and dancing, it really didn't feel like a musical to me. A lot of the musical numbers are of popular songs that people should be familiar with, and somehow, Luhrmann mixes them together sometimes to create a new kind of tune. What impressed me though is the songs he choosed from what was probably a selection of thousands, and how they fit into the film. Despite all this, it just didn't feel like a "true" musical to me. The songs can be distracting and most of the time seem to be not the main thing, and also at times they are not completed.

The story in the film is essentially nothing new. You've heard it before, I heard it before. It at first involves mistaken identity and then as I said earlier, forbidden love as the leading male protagonist bashes head with the antagonist. The dialogue rings true and there are some very good as well as memorable lines, as Luhrmann and his collaborator Craig Pierce are not afraid to keep on hammering their points away. It's really interesting at the big musical spectacle at the end how life intimidates art and how art intimidates life. There's a good message within this story and it has some fantastic, well developed characters. My only complaint with the characters however is that the supporting ones, such as Christian's friends, are not developed enough and they seemed to be tacked on, none of their identities are truly established to make them unique or different.

The acting is pretty phenomenal, and believe it or not, the actors featured in the movie CAN carry a tune. That's not other actors' voices you're hearing during the songs, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor really have good singing voices and make the movie seem more "real" in that fashion. The actors are believable in their roles and really bring them to life. Kidman has an incredible amount of energy and enthusiasm in the role, while McGregor captures a somewhat tragic character. The two also have some good chemistry. Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh have smaller but still fantastic performances.

Still, there are two real stars of the film (and what can also be distracting at times): Luhrmann's incredible visual style and the fabulous visuals that overwhelm the movie. Luhrmann, who I mentioned as one of my favorite visionaries does wonders here. He creates a whole fantastic world that is beleivable and seems like something we all know too well. What he creates is truly blazing with originality. Luhrmann sets an ineresting pace that fits the film well, and how he manipulates the camera so we feel trapped in his world is simply amazing. His quick pans and fast cuts have become a staple in his work, and they are here (I rather like them). Luhrmann seems to becoming a stronger and stronger director with each film he makes.

I just talked about Luhrmann's directing, now what populates is are some fabulous visuals. This movie has some fantastic sets that incredible to look at and sometimes become a bit distracting. The Moulin Rouge itself, the dance sequences, the final play at the end of the film... just everything. The unique colors that represent things are incredible and can really overtake the film but make it even more satisfying. There are some breahtaking costumes that the actors wear that represent the era but have their own unique creativity with them. What's in "Moulin Rouge" are some of the best visual designs I've ever seen in a film. Come Oscar® time, if this film does not recieved nominations for art direction, costumes, set direction and et al, we can say the Academy® is corrupt, but we knew that anyway.

"Moulin Rouge" is not for everyone, and those looking for an old-fashioned movie musical may want to look elsewhere. It's a hard movie to describe and talk about, but it has some excellent directing, marvelous visuals, a very good story and good acting to top it off. "Moulin Rouge" is one unique film that will capture the hearts and minds of film lovers everywhere.

 

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Moulin Rouge" looks incredible, truly bringing it's strong visual sense and vivid colors to this fabulous, near reference quality transfer. Fox's live action transfers just seem to get better and better, and "Moulin Rouge" proves that. Personally, I think "Moulin Rouge" is a tough movie to transfer because of the unique style and visuals it has, not to mention the colors and sets that also constantly change to tell the story and represent certain moods. First, let me get the negative out of the way: now and then there are some blemishes and the transfer does look a tiny bit faded. Now on to the many positives this transfer boasts. Shadow detail and detail itself is quite glorious. Colors are incredibly well saturated while fleshtones are accurate. Like I said, this movie has an incredibly unique visual style as far as colors, sets and everything else goes, and this transfer captures it to the fullest. Luhrmann's vision is brought to its full life here and not ruined in the process. And it's THX-certified too!

 

There is truly no denying that "Moulin Rouge" is a movie heavy and reliable on its sound, and the 5.1 mixes the film features are quite captivating. In addition to the amazing visuals the transfer shows off, the sound just furthers the experience to its absolute best. The English Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 mixes have clear dialogue that is well balanced with the music and other sound effects. Nothing overpowers anything else, which is great seeing how much sound the film features. There is pretty strong use of bass, but your sound system is sure to get a workout from this film no matter which track you use. Everything here is so well mixed. However, much of the sound comes from the various musical pieces. The mixing of the music can be intense, and it brought me into the film even more than when I saw it in the theater. The use of all the channels and the power of the .1 LFE is really incredible... surround use is here strong. Not to mention high fidelity and wonderful dynamics. As far as which mix is better, they're really neck and neck. I actually can't pick a clear winner. I compared many key scenes, but the DTS is a bit tighter in some areas, while the Dolby Digital felt a bit fuller. So, any which one you choose, you're in for a treat. As for as a one second delay in the DTS that people have been talking about, I didn't notice it, so who knows. Also included is a Spanish Dolby Surround track and an Audio track for the Visually Impaired. Plus, the usual English closed captions and subtitles.

 

Probably one of the best DVD releases of 2001, this two-disc set offers an incredible amount on crafting a film of such wonder and scope. On the first disc, we are treated to Behind The Curtain. Yes, another "Follow The White Rabbit"-like feature. While you watch the film, the fairy icon will appear and you'll be treated to behind the scenes bits on creating the film. Rough footage, blue screen work, production work and whatnot. It's pretty interesting to see, but does distrupt the flow of the film so it's a good idea to watch this more for comparisons and if you don't mind being interrupted. Very cool stuff here and nicely put together, but I can see some people getting annoyed with this.

Also on the first disc, beside a THX Optimizer to adjust your home theater, we have two audio commentary. The first Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer/Co-Producer Baz Luhrmann, Production Designer Catherine Martin and Cinematographer Donald M. McAlpine is quite good and there is a lot of insight to be found through these three creative minds. Luhrmann does much of the talking, but the other two chime in often with their own bits of information. I really, really enjoyed this track. Each talks about their craft and point out their work in shots and what they wanted to accomplish. This is a bit laid back, but really informative and you get a great sense of what it took to create "Moulin Rouge," not to mention how it was done. There's some humor here too. Overall, a balanced track that is a must listen for film enthusiasts and anyone interested in details, let alone how something of this magnitude was created.

The second track is also quite good. The Audio Commentary with Writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce focuses on crafting the story of "Moulin Rouge." I also really enjoyed this track, as each puts their input on the characters, the humor in the film, what they wanted to reach with the audience, how they went about things and more. Very nicely done, and if you're a fan of the film or curious how such a story is crafted, it's really worth hearing this one.

The second disc is everything else. The Making Of Moulin Rouge features clips from the films, behind the scenes footage and variety of interviews that focus on what the film is about and making it. It may seem like a fluff piece, but the interviews with Luhrmann, Kidman, McGregor and others tell us a great deal on their characters, what the film means to them and stuff that they did for the making. Very cool.

The Stars is a nice interview section with a cool intro. Broken up into Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh, each segment lasts a few minutes, is in non-anamorphic widescreen and has the actors talking about their characters. There is substantial stuff here with their honest thoughts on their characters and making the film. Truly worth checking out.

This Story Is About... is divided into three sections. First off, we have an Interview with Writers Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce. This focuses on the two's relationship (which seems quite strong, as one would expect). They talk about how they write their stuff and what they go through and the things they faced when writing "Moulin Rouge." This is very nice. Next, we have Craig Pearce Reads An Early Treatment. Here, Pearce talks about some things that got cut from the final film, but were in early drafts that he seemed to enjoy. Got to love the story editing process, eh? Finally, there is Old Storylines & Script Comparisons. There is a rough first draft from December 1998, the December 1998 intro and intros from April 1999 and June 2000. All make good reads and views, even if I really had to squint...

The Cutting Room also has three sections. First up is an Interview with Editor Jill Bilcock and Baz Luhrmann. Also in non-anamorphic widescreen like most of the other supplements, the two discuss their relationship and compliment one other. I found that quite interesting. They also talk about how they go about doing their thing together, and then how they edit and handle footage. Clips from the movie and rehearsal footage is featured. Quite cool. Abandoned Edits has five different edits of certain scenes. These have uncomplete post work and timecodes, but are entertaining and really cool to watch. Next to each scene name is a tiny phrase about the edit. Finally, we have Director's Mock Previsulizations (with apologies to the actors). Luhrmann talks about editing before reshoots and the advantages of his process, and then some examples. Again, awesome and this is a nice section on the editing process.

The Dance only has two sections, but feature quite a lot. The Dance has A Word From Baz where he introduces the dance sequences and that these large numbers need to be cut down. We have Tango, Hindi, Can Can and Coup D'Eat. The four sequences have multi-camera action (except Hindi) and are extended. Very nicely done. The other part here is Choreography. We have a cool Interview with Choreographer John "Cha Cha" O'Connell in non-anamorphic widescreen, and features rehearsing footage, what he does, his approach and what he wants. This was quite fascinating to me. We also have Rehearsals, which include the first performances of the sequences from the crew. Also qutie interesting.

Ah, The Music. As we know, "Moulin Rouge" is fuled by the music. Under The Musical Journey we have various footage and some interviews Luhrmann, Craig Armstrong and more on the creation of the music. It's about the creation of the score and insights of music with the film. Very nice. The Interview with Fatboy Slim has some stuff from Luhrmann, but the focus here is on Slim's mixing. There's footage of his mixing, Slim's working, clips from the film and more. This was quite intriguing. The Lady Marmalade Phenomenon is broken down to the MTV performance of the song and a music clip with Missy Elliot, which is basically the music video itself. Also, there is the Come What May music video. Personally, what's here is nice, but I would have enjoyed more on the process of picking the songs, their mixing and whatnot.

The Design section is rather grand. There is an Interview With Catherine Martin, Lurhmann's wife, co-costume designer and production designert. With clips from the movie, behind the scenes footage and more, Martin provides more insight on how she created her husband's vision, what he wanted and her work. Sweet. Set Design and Costume Design are actually still galleries that are wondrous to look at. There is an interview with the other costume designer, Angus Strathie. He provides additonal information and insight on matching outfits with the characters, and the sense of accomplshing various things. Another fine interview to watch. Graphic Design is a scrolling gallery of designs featured and inspired by the film, while Smoke and Mirrors is broken up into the "The Evoluion Of The Intro" and "The Green Fairy." Here various production members talk about what they were facing when making these sequences, how it was done and the like. Hard but very rewarding work indeed.

Finally, the Marketing section. The International Sizzle Reel is a montage of film clips and media stuff the film featured, while there are nice images to view with the Poster Gallery, The Little Red Book and Photo Gallery. There's a Music Promo Spot (gotta plug that soundtrack!) and Trailers. The Japanese one, the U.S. theatrical one and one for the upcoming Red Curtain Boxed Set. You'll also find the disc credits here. Phew!

There are also some nifty easter eggs to check out. One complaint though: Nearly everything here was shot in widescreen, but is not anamorphic. ARNGH!

 

"Moulin Rouge" is one of the most original films I have ever seen, and it's a spectacular experience as far as filmmaking goes. This DVD gives you a wonderful amount of insight on to the creation of such a breathtaking project that I, as many, will want to experience again and again. Filled with booming sound mixes, a blazing transfer and deep supplements, this is a must own for any film lover. Enjoy the grandeur that all this brings...