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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 21:45 GMT
Moulin sets cinema in motion
Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge will do battle for the Palme d'Or
Baz Luhrmann's lavish can-can drama Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, has taken the world by storm.

The musical extravaganza took almost five years to complete, due to the complexity of the production and post-production process.

But Luhrmann's patience has paid off with Moulin Rouge's global box office success.

"Without an iota of exaggeration, this film personally, emotionally and creatively tested me to my outer limits," said Luhrmann, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Unexpected

The action takes place in 19th Century Paris and follows the story of a poet, played by McGregor. He defies his father by moving to the city's seedy, artistic hotbed Montmartre.
Moulin Rouge
McGregor and Kidman dance to contemporary music

He falls into the world of the fast-living artist Toulouse-Lautrec and his entourage and is drafted to write a nightclub spectacular.

In this world of sex, drugs and electricity, he begins a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair with the club's highest paid star and courtesan, played by Kidman.

Visually, Moulin Rouge is eye-popping. The colours and costumes are garish and exuberant and the sets epic in size.

Musically too, the film is unexpected, as Luhrmann uses sounds from artists such as Madonna, Elton John, Christina Aguilera and Nirvana.

Luhrmann decribed his film as a musical comic-tragedy. His inspiration came from a mixture of the Orpheus myth and the stylised extravagance of India's Bollywood movies.

"What I thought was amazing about those movies was (the mix) of high comedy, high tragedy and people breaking into musical numbers," he said.

Reputation

The ambitiousness of his project has had its costs. Besides the toll on Luhrmann's sensibilities, the musical numbers were complex and time-consuming to film and edit.

During filming Kidman was injured in a fall on set and later had to have surgery on her knee.
Strictly Ballroom
Strictly Ballroom was a success at Cannes in 1992

This delayed the end of shooting and also meant the actress had to pull out of her next project The Panic Room.

Her part was taken by Jodie Foster, who stepped down as this year's Cannes jury president to do so.

Given his past record at Cannes, Luhrmann would be excused for being quietly confident about the reaction to Moulin Rouge at the festival.

His first film Strictly Ballroom - a vibrant romantic musical comedy - caused a splash at the festival in 1992 and became an international hit.

His second feature was Romeo and Juliet, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Again in the post-modern theme, Luhrmann reconceived Shakespeare's story of doomed teenage love.

He set the film in the designer-clad environment of Verona Beach, complete with an eclectic modern soundtrack and Shakespeare's prose delivered in modern vernacular.

The film saw worldwide success, was Oscar-nominated and established Luhrmann as an original talent in film-making.

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