I absolutely love Moulin Rouge. I have never seen anything at all like this movie; it is nothing short of indescribable. Previews and descriptions offer only the smallest glimpse into the epic world of intense human emotion, amazing sets, and incredible music that is Moulin Rouge. The setting is Paris in 1900, where the Moulin Rouge is the place to be, a spectacularly unreal world wherein inhibitions are left at the door and beauty, truth, freedom, and love are pursued on an epic scale. Ewan McGregor plays Christian, a young, idealistic, penniless poet who has come to Paris to embrace the bohemian spirit flourishing there. He soon finds himself writing songs for a lavish production alongside a truly unforgettable cast of characters led by Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguizamo). His new friends are awestruck by the lines and lyrics he comes up with, all of which are drawn from the pop culture of our own modern day. A shot of absinthe and a vision of the Green Fairy (played by the lovely Kylie Minogue) later, he finds himself inside Moulin Rouge. Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) leads the way for one of the most lavish musical production numbers ever created on film, topped off by the appearance of Satine (Nicole Kidman) on a huge swing above the amazingly enthusiastic audience. Despite the odds, Christian and Satine fall in love, but they must keep their love hidden because the club's wealthy patron, The Duke (Richard Roxburgh), wants Satine for himself and is willing to make her the real actress she longs to be in return for her affections. I was rather surprised to discover such a deeply emotional tale at the heart of this movie; it is a beautiful but tragic love story that outshines even the incredibly lavish production numbers for which this film is most famous.
I love musicals, but I had come to doubt the ability of modern moviemakers to make one worth seeing. What director Baz Luhrmann has done is to actually reinvent the musical as audiences know it. It sounds strange to say that the music for a movie set in 1900 consists of modern pop, opera, hip-hop, and other songs of the late twentieth century, but it really works beautifully and draws the modern viewer more deeply into the world of "real artificiality" Luhrmann succeeded in creating. If you had asked my thoughts on having two guys who look like David Spade and Rip Taylor singing Madonna's Like a Virgin in a movie, I would have laughed you out the door, yet it actually works in Moulin Rouge. Each of the terrific songs included here does serve rather than detract from the story itself. Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman do actually sing their own songs, it is important to note, and I was amazed to discover that Kidman's singing voice is as beautiful as she is herself. Dialogue alone could never manufacture the power unleashed by the music of Moulin Rouge, and the great tragedy of the story is made even more poignant by songs such as the haunting Come What May. Don't think this movie uses its garish production numbers as a means of hiding a weak story because the love story of Christian and Satine is nothing short of breathtaking, heartbreaking, and somehow wondrously beautiful all at the same time.
A terrific movie deserves a terrific DVD release, and Moulin Rouge features more extras than I could even watch all at once. When you watch the movie, you will marvel at the sets and costumes and wonder how on earth this movie was made. There are features on just about every aspect of the making of Moulin Rouge included on Disc Two. I love the commentaries and interviews, but what I really love are the uncut dance sequences. The dance numbers in this movie are just beautiful and beyond amazing, but they cannot be shown uncut in the film itself because things are happening story-wise at the same time and those scenes take precedence over the dances. Here, not only can you watch each of these musical production numbers in its completeness, you can even watch each one from multiple camera angles.
I know there are some people who dismiss this movie out of hand because it is a musical or because the hedonistic themes revealed in the movie previews give the impression of gaudiness over substance. This is not a musical in the traditional sense of the word, and the sets, while opulently lavish, are actually less stunning than the plot itself. This is a love story for the ages, sprinkled with comedy but dominated by the deepest of human emotions. Even though I was interested in this movie from the time it was released, I myself did not expect story itself to be as powerful and moving as it is. Moulin Rouge is, in almost every conceivable way, one of the best motion pictures I have ever seen.