Moulin Rouge! (2001)

(In theaters, September 2001) As someone who sees nearly a hundred films per year, it’s often difficult to justify seeing so many when so many of them are just crap. Then comes the odd one-in-a-hundred moment, the one that is so good, so original, so perfect that it fully justifies the rest of the dreck in theaters. That moment is the highlight of Moulin Rouge!, the introduction of the nightclub and of the Satine character, a raucous musical number featuring and blending “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, Madonna “Material Girl”, Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, the latest “Lady Marmalade” remix and a brand-new Fatboy Slim track. You have to see it and hear it to believe it. But don’t be surprised to find yourself stuck with a silly grin during the first half of Moulin Rouge!, even occasionally shaking at how good it is. A triumphant revival of the musical with an initial hyperkinetic approach reminiscent of Fight Club, this is one unique film, a jewel in the rough for everyone who loves movies and pop songs. Gleefully using twenty-five years of pop music like a toolbox to tell his story, writer/director Baz Lurhmann does things with the raw material that will leave you breathless at his audacity. Postmodernism at its best. Top-notch editing, a wonderful screenplay and excellent musical talent will leave you gasping for more. Granted, the second half of the film is more dramatic, less impressive than the first half, but that first half is likely to be the best thing you’ll see in 2001. Even the dependence on raw sentimentalism works to some degree. Don’t miss Moulin Rouge!

(Second viewing, On DVD, August 2002) Wonderful stuff any way you choose to see it. Boffo set designs, exceptional music, enjoyable acting and some dynamite movie moments. It doesn’t stop, and you’ll wish it never did. The DVD is stuffed with an embarrassing amount of extras, commentaries, on-set documentaries and oodles of other fun stuff, such as co-writer Craig Pearce discussing an early draft of the script which contained a character called “Baron von Groovy”. (I want to see that film!). Warning, though: While the audio commentaries are great, the film perceptibly loses a lot of its impact stripped of the music, which makes the completely-muted commentary track a very curious choice from the DVD makers (as opposed to a track where the audio plays at a greatly reduced volume throughout.) I still think it’s a fantastic film.

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