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Moulin Rouge

Passionately Postmodern 
or Seduced by Surrealism?

 

“Tell our story Christian. That way we'll always be together"

 

There are scenes in this extravaganza that will remind you of Salvador Dali’s The Sublime Moment. A surreal painting influenced by the ideas of Freud who sought to express the imagination as shown in dreams, unshackled by reason or convention. This idea was given literary voice almost exclusively in France. Surrealism depicts incongruous images in a realistic style.

Not unlike the combination of playful illusion, scandalous intrigue, provocative dancing, brilliant images, debauchery, pure romance, flights of fantasy and cartoon-type characters presented in Moulin Rouge.

Is this movie a result of a desire to shock or a sign of a very gifted cinematic shaman who feels compelled to release his innermost frenzied passions for bohemian (a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices) indulgence on screen?

The idea of combining complex forms, fantasy and allusions is also very postmodern. This is cutting-edge and will also appeal to anyone interested in pop culture. I could almost hear Baz Luhrmann‘s voice speaking through his characters when I heard Christian saying that his poetry is new and modern and you might enjoy it if you are open minded. 

Baz Luhrmann takes man’s most inner desires and splashes them across a surreal screen in lurid detail with wild decadence. The result is often comic to the point of absurdity. Desire, passion, suspicion, jealousy, anger, betrayal all blend into this musical fantasy about tragic romance and at times focuses on the darkest corner of man’s soul.

My emotions ranged from crying over how romantic the scenes were to feeling absolute revulsion for the frenetic cut-and-paste obsession. The mishmash of contemporary songs and classic musical tunes are voraciously interwoven and mysteriously arranged. They are the threads holding this movie together in a star-dust-sprinkled sapphire sky. While many of the scenes were stunning and visually erotic, the true beauty of this movie seems to come from the main characters hearts.  

 

 

Nicole Kidman plays Satine, a beautiful, well paid, but world-weary courtesan who dances at the famed Moulin Rouge cabaret in artsy 19th-century Paris. This Sparkling Diamond is caught in this fantastical underworld of Parisian nightclubs. When she meets Christian it is kismet. She falls hopelessly in love with the young playwright (Ewan McGregor). Christian is a penniless poet who believes in truth, freedom and beauty and above all things, love. He can spontaneously create love songs from the depths of his soul. Satine first mistakes him for Duke and by the time she meets Duke, Christian has already bewitched her with words.

He is sensitive and emotional and the type of man women dream they could meet.  A man who will follow them to the ends of the earth (or go to hell and back); just to gaze longingly into their eyes. In fact, this story does seem to resemble the most basic concepts of the Orphean myth. Orpheus charmed nymphs with his music just as Christian seems to charm Satine. He eases her tortured soul just as Orpheus’ songs eased the torments of the damned. 

Orpheus journeys to the underworld to find his true love (wife Eurydice who died of a snake bite). He is told that Eurydice can follow him back to earth. However, he must not look back. After disobeying this order,  Eurydice has to stay in the underworld.  

Moulin Rouge

The ending of this movie is equally tragic. Satine is dying of tuberculosis and you know her fate early in the movie, which in fact, is quite clever. It  seduces you into watching the movie just to find out how and why she died. There are also parallels one could examine from Puccini's opera La Bohème.  

 

I ate at a cafe next to the Moulin Rouge for Lunch when
I was in Paris, but never went to the Moulin Rouge.

 

This movie asks surprisingly deep questions about why life is worth living. Life is unpredictable and yet you learn from life and go on, or you give up. Saying “the show must go on,” is in a way symbolic of life going on with or without love. The two main characters must rise above the difficulties of social standing, poverty and ill health they encounter to make the relationship work.

Christian and Satine’s forbidden love embodies the concepts of unfulfilled desires and a certain tortured agony of the soul.  Nicole must choose between a young writer’s inspiration and the psychologically warped investor, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) who is obsessed with possessing her. He agrees to finance Moulin's latest ambitious show in return for her attentions.

This is a prime example of a movie that has to be watched twice to understand the content of the first part. Otherwise, it makes no sense at all on the first viewing. You must first accept the obvious assault on the senses. This is really a reviewers dream movie. There is so much to analyze on so many levels. The satisfaction comes from delving beyond the fantasy and hearing the cries of the soul. 

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” And that is the best line in the movie to be sure.

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Moulin Rouge is a euphoric fantasy which at times seems to be induced by quite a few glasses of Absinthe which is a symbol of the bohemian spirit.  This mysterious vivid emerald liqueur was known to inspire many famous artists, writers and poets. Absinthe (French for wormwood) contains thujone is a toxic chemical that causes mind-altering changes and may lead to psychosis. The adverse effects of this habit-forming drink include hallucinations. Green in this case seems to either symbolize decay and jealousy or life and creativity.

What surprised me most was this intense longing I felt to submit myself again to the visual torture. I watched it three times! I blame it on being a hopeless romantic.

“Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place…Sing out this song I'll be there by your side. Storm clouds may gather. And stars may collide. But I love you until the end of time.”

Visually Stunning.
Hopelessly Romantic.

 

Moulin Rouge

"The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return."

 

 

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