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banner Monday, 3 September, 2001, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Marvellous Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge bombards the senses
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Hold on to your hats, batten down the hatches and avoid all stimulants for at least a week - the explosive Moulin Rouge will blow you away.

The film's director is the audacious Australian Baz Luhrmann. A compulsive innovator, Luhrmann singlehandedly made ballroom dancing cool in Strictly Ballroom.

He then dared to push boundaries further by mixing Shakespeare with pop culture to make Romeo and Juliet.

Moulin Rouge
Kidman and McGregor play doomed lovers

But for his third directorial outing, Luhrmann has surpassed himself.

With Moulin Rouge he brings to movie audiences an experience on which the word extravaganza can, for once, be shamelessly lavished.

Fin-de-siècle Parisien decadence, Hollywood musicals, and pop video style editing are all thrown into the pot and spewed out at eye-popping break-neck speed

The effect, though luxuriant for the senses, is akin to being strapped mercilessly to a roller coaster with no chance of ever getting off.

Theatre

The story upon which this spinning top - and windmill - revolves, is set in 1899 Paris.

It sees poor but talented young writer Christian fall in love with Satine - the most prized courtesan of infamous Paris night club the Moulin Rouge.

Moulin ROuge
Scenes are played out in a series of lavish tableaux

But, we learn right from the start that the story will end tragically. Satine has already died and Christian is telling us the tale of their doomed, tumultuous affair in flashback.

He tells how Satine fell in love with him too but was ultimately torn between true love and the financial compulsion to marry a wealthy patron.

From the outset, Luhrmann makes it clear that he wants his audience to suspend disbelief and enter a world of pure theatre.

Big red stage curtains are pulled aside and the viewer is coerced in. Once there, Luhrmann is merciless in his mission to instantly assault the senses.

Wild can-can dancers, grimacing faces and psychedelic swirls of colour come charging across the screen.

Mouling Rouge
Kidman is the star but has a strong supporting cast

The surreal effect continues relentlessly as the action is played out in a series of tableaux, rather than a linear narrative scene.

Add to that the anachronistic twist of contemporary pop tunes - Madonna's Like a Virgin and Elton's John Your Song are just two - and the audience's disorientation is complete.

Ephemeral

The sets, costumes, musical production and dancing are quite simply staggering. Although, disappointingly, the can-can hardly figures at all.

As for the acting, McGregor confirms his ability to play tortured parts to perfection.

Nicole Kidman
Kidman leaves a lasting impression

He also reveals he has a fine tenor voice. The support cast, particularly Jim Broadbent, are all impressive.

But, it is undeniably Kidman that steals the show. She too reveals a commendable voice and a talent for melodrama and crying on cue.

Yet, it is the actress's ephemeral beauty that remains one of the lasting impressions of the film.

Where Luhrmann's potty creation falls down, is that it is, to a certain extent, a victim of its own creative success.

The sights and sounds of Moulin Rouge are so overwhelming that they submerge the film's emotional depth.

But if the movie fails to tug on the heart strings - and leaves some dazed and confused - it can be forgiven given the mesmerising theatrical adventure of the whole.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC News Online's Jayne Douglas
"Modern day musicals are uncharted territory"
The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It was in every sense a spectacle"
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Links to more Oscars 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


Links to more Oscars 2002 stories