104 – Moulin Rouge!

This overstated hodge-podge of debauchery is neither fascinating nor entertaining. Like director Baz Luhrmann’s earlier Romeo and Juliet, this one leans very heavily on style. And when one leans heavily on something with little substance, one falls firmly on one’s face. Which is what this unfortunate movie does.

It tries hard not to be dull and boring, and in doing so eschews any semblance of nuance. Everyone and everything in this movie is loud, boisterous, screaming to be heard about the maddening din. Sure, this might be 1900 Paris, but if it was, I bet they had a run on Excedrin the following morning – if there ever were following mornings. I don’t doubt people were as debaucherous as this; they surely are now in some circles.

A naive young writer (Ewan McGregor) enters the world of the artists in Paris at the turn of the 20th century and quickly falls in love with an alluring chanteuse (Nicole Kidman). That’s great. A love story is fine. But sadly, McGregor and Kidman have less romantic chemistry than a can a tuna and an angry kitty cat. Each is a respectable thespian in his or her own right, but such talent is completely overwhelmed by the roar of the madness. Kidman can be very effective in much quieter roles, such as Dead Calm, Malice, and To Die For, but really most anyone could have played this particular role (provided they were tall and had 7-foot legs). Macgregor’s been in some good films, both small (Trainspotting) and large (Star Wars Episode 1). Both would have been much better off passing up on this junk.

The original was an inspired musical featuring some fine tunes. This one is a mish mash of pop hits from the 1970s to the present, often sung at inopportune, inexplicable times (and sometimes not even in the song’s entirety). There’s plenty of visual goings-on, however, for the viewer to forget the music sucks. Admittedly, the cinematography is superb, eliciting images upon images; there really is some magician behind the camera for this one. But rather than being a masterpiece in and of itself, the camera artwork merely overwhelms everything else about the movie. If I wanted to do nothing but see compelling images, I’d go to an art house and gaze at Monet for a few hours. Or, in the case of this flop, Peter Max or perhaps early Andy Warhol.

Moulin Rouge!: 3


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