dir: Barry Luhrmann
Moulin Rouge, the fourth in the Three Colours series, is the first to depart from the tried and true formula of having silly French people overact at the drop of a croissant. Instead, in another of his long list of genre bursting endeavours, Barry Luhrmann decided to shift the focus of his vision to the future. In this science fiction / horror crossover, Luhrmann paints a bleak yet colourful canvas of his chilling view of a post apocalyptic alternate future where the fabric of society has been discarded like a drunken bridesmaid's undies and people speak in a post literate language called "ham", obscuring all meaningful communication and leading to sorrow, loneliness and death.
The film begins at a time referred to as "1899", but astute viewers will note that this has nothing to do with actual earth history. On some newly colonised planet, a city called "Paris" cradles both our protagonists and the venue that the film takes its name from, the Moulin Rouge, or "Red Snapper", cunningly referring to the legendary Led Zeppelin groupie anecdote of the same name.
Ewan MacGregor reprises his role of Obi Wan Kenobi without raising the ire of Lucasfilm's platoons of lawyers, and neglects to display his well-abused fleshy lightsabre, to the disappointed groans of audiences everywhere. Hired by an opium addicted Yoda (played by John Leguizamo, in the second most terrifying role of the film), he is asked to kill an evil cannibalistic cyborg played astoundingly well by Nicole Kidman, who doesn't break character once. Reluctantly, he agrees, against his better judgement, but cannot see that he is being set up for a fall.
Nicole Kidman is truly chilling as the cyborg cannibal, often seen wiping the blood of her victims from her mouth. In her cover role as the most famous and highly paid "courtesan" (ie. working girl) in all of the Paris moon colony, her credibility ranks second only to Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman for portraying such a convincing, risky, edgy role. Utterly convincing as a mercenary prostitute that never actually has to "put out", so to speak, her acting talents are barely stretched, especially since her simultaneous portrayal of the cannibal cyborg and wily courtesan is flawless, in that it couldn't be more static or inanimate.
She truly is the most terrifying presence I've seen in a film since Divine in Pink Flamingoes.
In recent years the villains in big budget films have been allowed some measure of sympathetic understanding on the part of the audience, if not outright anti-hero status, being preferable to the supposed "hero". Luhrmann wisely avoids this trap by making Satine as unsympathetic as possible.
Few people know the true story behind the first 45 minutes of the film. Whilst in pre-production, Barry Luhrmann was travelling through Russia on holidays and scouting possible shot locations. As he walked down an icy, wind swept street, he heard a voice from one of the homeless people nearly frozen to death on the footpath, kept alive only by the cheap vodka held high in hand like a beacon.
"Please, sir, lover of your movies am I. Please, will work for free, am very talented man. Friends also talented, we want work for you in movies."
- "What did you do prior to the fall of your despicable Soviet Empire?" said Baz, as he pretended to take a swig from one of the offered bottles.
"Work for KGB in Neo Pavlovian section with film to brainfuck people with hyperediting and noisy chatter spliced with popular song snippets. No scene is allowed to last for more than 2 seconds without cut. Superb for breaking resolve of victim."
- "Excellent." (steeples his fingers together in Mr Burns fashion).
Thus, the opening half hour or so assaults the senses in an overload of imagery designed to playfully obscure the fact that meta-filmmaking involves no need for a story or plot as an impetus for the actions of characters on a screen. The first part of the film ensures that this is a perfect date flick: that is, if you are a pedophile whose date is a very young child with Attention Deficit Disorder without access to Ritillin. They'll love it, and will be rendered docile by the second half of the film where a semblance of acting takes over from the all-style no-substance film making, which should make things easier for all concerned.
I hated it all so much that I was crying for my mommy. But then something happened: I started getting into it towards the end and somehow, against all my available judgments, actually found it affecting. The only sequence that genuinely represented the passion and darkness of the alleged subject matter was the Roxanne sequence of singing and choreography, with the narcoleptic Argentinian screaming and grunting out the lyrics, that was powerful, well realised and disturbing. I really could not have cared less about anything else. I was so annoyed by so many aspects of the first half of the film that I was resigned to die by the end of it.
I did cheer when Obi Wan was forced to kill the evil cyborg Nicole, I cheered at her death, though I perversely had tears in my eyes. Not by choice, mind you.
And the little midget whore that kept popping up, she was good.
3 stiletto heels through the eyeball out of 10
"I haven't been fucked like that since grade school." - Marla, Fight Club