Watching Baz Luhrmann's award-winning Moulin Rouge
is a lot like falling in love. It is total immersion cinema and while you're experiencing it ("watching" is too passive a word) you can't imagine that cinema could be for anything else. In the harsh, objective post-viewing daylight Lurhmann's gaudy spectacular might seem like a triumph of glossy style over any genuine substance, but as the film unfolds Lurhmann subjects his audience to a such a barrage of overtly stylised music, dance, colour, design and human passion that the senses are overwhelmed and critical faculties put on hold for the duration.
The story is paper-thin, but that's hardly the point. Nicole Kidman's courtesan Satine falls for poor poet Ewan McGregor while pledged to a psychotic English Duke. The show goes on, of course, and we know it will end in tragedy--because that's the sort of story this is, and the only thing that makes it bearable is the knowledge that it's all just brilliant artifice. The third of Luhrman's "Red Curtain" trilogy (after Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet), Moulin Rouge reinvents musical cinema, acknowledging its debt to past masters like Vincente Minnelli (Gigi) and Michael Powell (The Red Shoes), but taking in the best of rock video along the way. The incessant MTV-style editing might seem like a distraction, but in the end a film insane enough to include Jim Broadbent's cover of "Like a Virgin" defines its own genre rules.
On the DVD: this double-disc package sets new standards of presentation while also having an ideally appropriate light-heartedness. The extra features are as inventive in their use of the format as the film itself. Highlights include not one but two commentaries--one by Luhrmann, his designer and his cinematographer, the other with Lurhmann and his fellow scriptwriter Craig Pearce. We get two videos of "Lady Marmalade" and there are also uncut dance numbers, for example the fabulously dark Tango sequence in all its detail, which come with alternate camera angles so that you can edit your own version. There are whole segments on the glittery costumes, the three-dimensional model of Paris and the transformation of Kylie Minogue into the Green Fairy of absinthe. The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (formatted for 16:9 TVs) with a visual aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has lush, velvety Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 sound options. --Roz Kaveney
Ewan McGregor Moulin Rouge