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In 1899 France, a young writer named Christian defies his bourgeois father, leaves his family home and moves to the seedy, bohemian underworld of Montmartre, Paris. He is taken in by Toulouse-Lautrec and his entourage, and is drafted to write a nightclub spectacular. Through his relationship with Toulouse, Christian meets Satine, the most beautiful courtesan in Paris and star of the Moulin Rouge nightclub. He and Satine enter into a passionate but doomed love affair.
For more about Moulin Rouge! and the Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray release, see Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on October 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, Kerry Walker (I)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
» See full cast & crew
Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray Review
"Magnificent, opulent, tremendous, stupendous, gargantuan bedazzlement! A sensual ravishment!"
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, October 22, 2010
Whatever you think of Baz Luhrmann's frenetic, flamboyant filmmaking style, you can't say that the Aussie director lacks ambition. For Moulin Rouge, the culmination of his so-called "Red Curtain Trilogy"—following the glittery Strictly Ballroom and the Shakespeare-meets-SoCal modernization of his Romeo + Juliet—Luhrman set out to reinvent the movie musical, that stalest of Hollywood genres. Lars von Trier had made a similar attempt with the more avant-garde Dancer in the Dark in 2000, but Luhrmann's film has no delusions of arthouse importance. Rather, the swoon-inducing Moulin Rouge is an undiluted sugar rush of top-40 tunes, borrowing willy-nilly from the pop music catalog of the past half-century, resulting in medleys that mash-up "The Sound of Music" with "Children of the Revolution," and segue seamlessly between David Bowie's "Heroes" and Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You." It's big and bold, both kitschy and clever, and it works…somehow. The film is—and there's no other word for it—an extravaganza.
Can you imagine a more extravagant setting than the Montmartre Quarter of Paris in 1899—the "summer of love," we're told—where bohemians dream of artistic revolution and frilly courtesans dance the can-can in the Moulin Rouge, that infamous nightclub of ill-repute? We open with Christian (Ewan McGregor), the age-old archetype of the penniless writer, who has come to Montmartre in pursuit of the bohemian ideals: Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and—most of all—Love. Christian falls in with famed artist/socialite Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), or rather, Toulouse literally falls in on Christian through the ceiling of the writer's shabby apartment. An artistic collaboration is born. Upstairs, Toulouse and his merry band of misfits have been trying to write a musical, entitled "Spectacular, Spectacular," that they plan on pitching to Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent), the owner of the Moulin Rouge. Only, they're stuck on the lyrics. "The hills are incarnate with symphonic melodies?" suggests one. Christian cuts in, singing, "the hills are alive, with the sound of music!" They've got themselves a new writer.
When Christian is mistaken for the Duke (Richard Roxburgh), a wealthy patron of the Moulin Rouge, he finds himself in the boudoir of the club's star courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman), who has been ordered to…let's see, how should we put this…service the Duke as an exchange for continued funding. This makes for an awkward introduction between Satine and Christian, but, as is often the case in movie musicals, theirs is love at first song. (In this case, Elton John's "Your Song.") There are, however, inevitable complications. While the Duke agrees to bankroll the production of "Spectacular, Spectacular," he does so on the condition that Satine be his, exclusively. And neither Christian nor the Duke know that the apple of their rivaling eyes is wasting away from consumption. (I call this "Annabelle Lee Syndrome." If you're in head-over-heels love with a woman in the late 1800s, chances are she's going to start coughing up blood, die suddenly, and you'll become a pining, lovelorn artist.) The show, Christian's life, and the Moulin Rouge itself all come into jeopardy when the Duke discovers that "Spectacular, Spectacular"—about a dastardly maharaja who tries to buy the affection of an Indian courtesan in love with a lowly sitar player—is an allegory for their real-life bizarre love triangle.
In terms of its story, Moulin Rouge is nothing new, but visually—and musically—there's nothing like it. Baz Luhrmann is a stylist extraordinaire and Moulin Rouge is a nonstop assault of color and sound, a mix of Bollywood theatrics, hopeless romanticism, and froufrou turn-of-the-century debauchery. Of course, there's the dizzyingly effective main conceit of using pop songs anachronistically, much like Marie Antoinette. Luhrmann recontextualizes the "here we are now, entertain us" line from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and has Nicole Kidman dangle from a swing above the tuxedoed crowd, cooing that "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Both Kidman and McGregor do all of their own singing, and they nail it; they may not be the best vocalists ever, but they sound real, and when they dance together atop the Parisian skyline, you feel like you're watching an Old Hollywood coupling, like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. There are no false notes in their performances, either. They're both charged with being somewhat larger than life—he's supposed to be the embodiment of the lovelorn artist; she, his mortal muse—and so they act with a conscious theatricality. Thankfully, this is more charming than grating. As the Duke, Richard Roxburgh snivels and sneers, flaring his nostrils and arching his eyebrows like a villain in a silent movie.
Old and new collide here in more ways than one. Luhrmann seems in love with the idea of silent cinema—he uses wobbly title cards during the opening sequence and occasional iris fades—but his film is anything but silent, and the editing is a hyperactive mishmash of quick cuts. When he films the can-can dancers lifting their skirts, the scene turns into an impressionistic smear of vivid color. Moulin Rouge is basically a Toulouse-Lautrec painting in motion—on absinthe—and I imagine Baz Luhrmann would take that as the highest possible compliment. Not everyone would. The non-stop eye candy and saccharine story may get a bit too cloying for some, and if you're adverse to musicals to begin with, the over- the-top nature of Moulin Rouge probably won't win you over. That said, if your favorite TV show is Glee and you're prone to daydreams about the laudanum-soaked lives of boho 19th century Parisians, then Moulin Rouge is a glitter-dusted fantasy.
Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray, Video Quality
This all-new 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, personally approved by Baz Luhrmann himself, is everything that fans could've hoped for and more. Simply put, this is a stunning presentation of a film that seems made for Blu-ray. Colors practically scream off the screen—vivid boudoir reds, deep moonlit blues, the emerald green of Kylie Minogue's absinthe fairy. I could go on an on. The scenes inside the Moulin Rouge, especially, are ultra-saturated and dense, without any instances of color bleed or over-pumped hues. Likewise, black levels are inky, contrast is pleasingly tight, and the image has an incredible sense of "pop," for the lack of a better word. The film gets a tremendous boost in clarity from the DVD, and while you'll spot a few soft-ish shots, most of the movie is sharp and refined, with close-ups that reveal extremely fine detail—see the screenshot of Zigler's face—and an overall appearance that's cleanly resolved. Better yet, the film's grain is natural and unobtrusive—there are no DNR abuses here—and digital noise, or any other compression problems, are rarely ever apparent. I could probably dig for tiny nitpicks, but that would be counterproductive. Moulin Rouge has been granted a fantastic restoration/transfer, and I can't imagine it looking any better.
Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray, Audio Quality
If you're a fan, you should be sold on this disc already, but let me go ahead and tell you about the film's incredibly lush DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. As this is a musical, the dynamic breadth and clarity of the songs is of utmost importance, and this track doesn't disappoint. I'll get my one complaint out of the way—there's an instance in an early song when Zigler's voice sounds much too low in the mix, obscured by the raucous music that's booming out of every channel. But that's it. It never really happens again. (At least, not to the same extent. There are a few other times when vocals could be just a hair higher in the mix.) Aside from that little bugaboo, I'm over the moon for this track. The music is rich and expansive; you can make out the timbre of individual instruments, and the mix frequently makes use of all 5.1 channels—with plenty of .1 LFE low-end response— for a presentation that's wholly enveloping. It's like being inside the Moulin Rouge. Even when the music isn't sweeping us away—which, for most of the film, it is—the rear speakers are used to strong effect, with ambience and the occasional cross-channel movement, like the swooshing flutter of the green absinthe fairy. Dialogue is clean and clear, and there are no odd hisses, buzzes, or drop-outs to report. The short version: very close to perfection.
Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
"Spectacular Spectacular" Picture-in-Picture Commentary
Director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, DP Donald M. McAlpine, and co-writer Craig Pearce sit down to discuss every aspect of the film in this informative commentary track. Additionally, if you select the "picture-in-picture" option—and, just so you're aware, you can listen to the commentary by itself—behind-the-scenes footage from the film, along with pre-production artwork, storyboards, and other material will appear on screen during the movie. Also, an icon will periodically pop-up in the lower left corner of the screen; press select and you'll be taken to a relevant section from one of the many bonus features below, which can also be selected from the "extras" menu.
A Word From Baz (1080p, 1:58)
Baz talks about the "remarkable Blu-ray format" and the idea of staying true to the film's original theatrical look in the transfer to high definition. Good for him!
A Creative Adventure (1080p, 11:04)
A general overview of Luhrman's creative vision, showing the thematic/stylistic unity between his films.
The House of Iona (1080p, 7:11)
The House of Iona is actually an estate where Baz Luhrmann collaborates with his creative team, kind of like a miniature, flamboyant version of George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Note that although this material is technically in 1080p, it's actually standard defintion footage windowboxed in a rather ornate frame. Note that while this is technically in high definition, it's actually just standard def material windowboxed inside an ornate frame. The same goes for much of the following behind-the-scenes footage. Still, they've made it look quite nice!
The Making of Moulin Rouge (1080i, 25:55)
A terrific port from the DVD release, featuring clips from the film and interviews with Luhrmann, his creative team, and the stars.
From the Bazmark Vault (1080p)
An enormous collection of behind-the-scenes material. Includes Father & Son: A Look at an Alternate Opening (6:22), Early Cut of Zidler's Rap (3:00), Baz Unleashes Unbridled Lust (5:16), A Kiss, A Touch, or a Pat (1:51), Nicole & Jim Rehearse at Iona (1:25), Ewan & Nicole's First Dance (2:29), Zidler's Jig (00:42), Directing Man in the Moon (3:34), Directing "Like a Virgin" (2:21), The Duke's Happy Ending (1:02), Jealousy Tango—The Early Tests (2:37), Rehearsal Footage—Jealousy Tango (3:31), Rehearsing Ravishment (3:45), On-Set with Toulouse Tonight (1:05), and Nicole Kidman's First Vocal Test—"Sad Diamonds" (1:38).
The Stars (1080p)
Brief interviews with the actors. Includes Nicole Kidman as Satine (3:44), Ewan McGregor as Christian (3:23), John Leguizamo as Toulouse (2:31), Jim Broadbent as Zidler (2:29), and Richard Roxburgh as The Duke (2:44).
The Writers (1080p)
Includes an Interview with Writers Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce (4:09) and Craig Pearce Reads Early Treatment (2:29).
The Design (1080p)
An exploration of the film's costuming and set design. Includes an Interview with Catherine Martin (6:49), an Interview with Co-Costume Designer Angus Strathie (2:22), The Evolution of the Intro (4:38), The Green Fairy (3:57), The Windmill (2:12), Christian's Garret (2:35), The Main Hall (2:56), The Garden of Earthly Delights (3:04), and Gothic Tower (1:44).
The Dance (1080p)
More dancing: Extended Can Can (4:49), Extended Tango (5:58), Extended Hindi (3:39), Extended Coup D'état (00:57) and Interview with Choreographer John O'Connell (6:14).
The Music (1080p)
Includes The Music Journey (9:54), The Love Medley Music (4:28), Interview with Fatboy Slim (3:56), Lady Marmalade (4:33), Come What May (4:15), and One Day I'll Fly Away (3:57).
The Cutting Room (1080p)
Includes Interview with Editor Jill Bilcock & Baz Luhrmann (3:46) and Director's Mock Previsualizations (4:40).
Toulouse Tonight Web-Series (1080p)
A mock TV show, hosted by John Leguizamo as Toulouse. Includes Intro (00:57), The Can Can (2:05), The Bohos (2:06), The Duke (2:08), Christian (2:29), The Extras (2:09), Satine (2:15), The Crew (2:21), A Day with Toulouse (2:27), and The End (2:28).
Includes Around the World with Moulin Rouge (2:10), Theatrical Trailer (2:26), and Japanese Theatrical Trailer (1:51).
Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
In 2001, Moulin Rouge did the impossible—it made the movie musical seem relevant again, thanks to its post-modern, cut-and-chop take on the pop music of the past half century. Nine years later, the film is still frenetic and fun, and it looks and sounds better than ever on Fox's stunning new Blu-ray release, a must-own for fans of Baz Luhrmann's insanely colorful—or is it colorfully insane?—creative vision. Highly recommended!
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Moulin Rouge! Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge Blu-ray Announced - August 27, 2010
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced that on October 19 it will release two films from visionary director Baz Luhrmann: William Shakespeare's Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge!. Both Blu-ray editions will feature new high-definition transfers ...
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