- Ewan McGregor as Christian
- Nicole Kidman as Satine
- Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler
- Richard Roxburgh as The Duke
- John Leguizamo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
An utterly fantastical, spectacular musical romance, Moulin Rouge is a marvel to behold. With artistic flair and daring panache, Baz Luhrmann crafts an ambitious and boldly mounted extravaganza combining humour, passion and music.
The time is 1900 and young dreamy poet Christian moves to Montmartre, Paris to be among the burgeoning Bohemian writing movement. It isn’t long until Christian comes into contact with the eccentric Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his artistic circle. After seeing Christian’s deep talent for words, Toulouse and his friends persuade him to help them finish writing their new show that they want to sell. They take Christian to the decadent dance hall Moulin Rouge, were the dancing is frantic, the atmosphere charged and the sexuality is through the roof as it also doubles as a bordello. It is a place where the rich folk of Paris mingles with the underworld in gaudy business, boozy antics and seedy dealings. The plan is to sell the play to the garrulous owner and impresario Harold Zidler. The star of the Moulin Rouge is a beautiful courtesan named Satine who is a talented singer and wants to be an actress. Upon meeting her after a series of mishaps when she believes he is someone else, Christian is instantly in love and his way with poetry and genuine emotion soon makes these feelings reciprocated by the stunning Satine. The hitch to their flourishing romance is when Harold gets an investor for the play in the form of the unscrupulous Duke, who wants to be bound to Satine and slowly comes to see that Satine has feelings for someone else which causes his anger to considerably rise. As Christian and Satine conduct a concealed affair, there is also the secret matter that Satine is tragically dying of consumption. As the day of the show nears, love, jealousy and tragedy collide in spectacular fashion as the show must go on.
As soon as the movie starts with something akin to a fanfare, you just know that Moulin Rouge is going to be something special. Baz Luhrmann launches us into an intoxicating world of artistic flourishes and grand passions that benefits from and soars because of stunning set design, costumes and visuals. The way he shoots the scenes within the title dance hall are fantastic with quick cuts and a kinetic pace mixing as colourful skirts are lifted in the can can, decadent joy comes alive and a promise of love emerges for Christian in an exotic atmosphere. Moulin Rouge is nothing short of a feast for the senses and ears and Luhrmann knows how to engross us in a spellbinding fable with a tragic heart at the centre of it all. I especially love how the musical numbers are songs that are modern and transported into the old-fashioned setting with cheeky panache and chutzpah. I can’t explain why but I really get a kick out of hearing these contemporary numbers being performed in an archaic environment. Now there are those that will argue that Moulin Rouge is nothing more than grandiose style over substance. I can see where people may be coming from with that accusation, but I for one was too swept up in the movie and found that while the style was overwhelming in parts, there was still interesting characters and a love story in it that left me moved. The romance between Christian and Satine has a feeling of magic to it, they are really meant to be together but ultimately fate my have other plans for these designs and won’t let it be an easy ride for either.
Ewan McGregor is ideally cast as the naive poet Christian, who believes with all his being that love is essential to life. McGregor has a really genuine and earnest way about him here that we sympathise with Christian as his love for Satine is threatened by other forces. One should also note his excellent vocal skills that are mightily impressive to hear. The same can be said of Nicole Kidman, whose singing voice can be described as heavenly. She exudes such a vibrancy, joy and ultimately desperate sadness as the showgirl Satine slowly dying but finding her one true love. Kidman gives her all to the part and shows a flair for seductive comic scenes as well as deep emotional ones that show her incredible range. The ever-reliable Jim Broadbent steals every scene he’s in with his gusto, sense of humour and outrageous look as the showman Harold, who watches over his stars of the show but in particular Satine. Richard Roxburgh has a snake-like quality that he cloaks his character of The Duke in that makes him a very nasty piece of work indeed. John Leguizamo is an utter delight as the impish Toulouse who brings Christian into his circle of artists and writers.
Bold, breathtaking and impressively splendid, Moulin Rouge is simply put a wonderful musical brimming with life.