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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Moulin Rouge! (2001)



Reviews and Comments

Moulin Rouge is only a "musical" by definition. There is music, to be sure; plenty of comically diverse familiar tunes are given fantastic rearrangements and integrated into the story. But this is nothing like other films that come to mind when one uses the term "musical." I have never seen a movie that looks or sounds anything like this one. It is one of a kind, a rare thing in film these days. There is as much music in the visuals as on the soundtrack. There is more energy in this than most action movies, more color than Shakespeare In Love, and there is zaniness that would make Terry Gilliam proud. The age old story is as gleefully stereotypical as in the old Dudley Do-Right cartoons, and yet the emotions are real. The characters, however familiar, are convincingly genuine. Their triumphs and tragedies are ours. Their songs have astounding emotional power -- whether humor, inspiration, or heartbreak. Few movies are quite as moving as this one, and fewer still are fun just the same.

I'm astonished at how difficult it must have been to put this movie together. The editing is frenetic without sabotaging the impact of the film, and the soundtrack is far more complex than being the mechanism for a musical score. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to synchronize the visuals and the soundtrack at all, let alone do it so effectively. Consider a scene toward the middle, where a Can-Can number is intercut with a harrowing suspense scene in another room. The emotions these two events evoke are contradictory, and yet neither are compromised. This is a scene where one can simultaneously feel the exhilaration of music and dance while being overwrought with the worrisome threat of disaster.

In mentioning the excellence of this scene, it's only fair to do several other equally good ones justice, but I couldn't possibly mention them all. The love song medley is arguably the musical highlight. An early scene of screwball comedy, involving confused identities and quick thinking explanations, is uproariously funny. These scenes and a half dozen others, at least, I will undoubtedly never forget.

See this on the big screen if you possibly can. If not, see it letterboxed, so the stunning cinematography is not lost.