Baz Luhrmann

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6.5 Australia
6.5 Moulin Rouge
5.0 The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge (2001) is a cartoonish, psychedelic, visually-stunning musical with a predictable storyline (young romantic writer falls in love with cynical chanteuse, chanteuse must sleep with old evil disgusting rich man to get funding for their new production, chanteuse falls in love with writer too, producer forces her to send him away) but set to the disjointed, neurotic tempo of the modern videoclip/ videogame/ techno civilization. The script, dialogue and music seem to be improvised on the spot by a bunch of amateurs with limited English skills, Love triumphs at the end and the evil "duke" (who has ordered the murder of the writer) is defeated, but she dies (of tubercolosis) in the writer's arms. Luhrmann stuffs the film with a stunning number of ideas, costumes and scenes, that compete with each other for time. The creative merry-go-round is awe-inspiring but not necessarily accomplished. Moulin Rouge looks more like ten unfinished masterpieces than one accomplished film. The stereotyped storyline (a mockery of classic melodrama) does detract from the overall "experimental" flavor. In the decadent era of the "Moulin Rouge", a young naif writer who has never been in love but is dying to write about love has the vision of a crew of odd characters, led by a dwarf, who encourage him to write a musical. (Events take place as he types them on his typewriter in his room, so the entire film might just be the story that he is writing in his room). A wild colorful crowd is celebrating inside the "Moulin Rouge", led by its spirited owner, Ziegfield (the soundtrack changes the "can-can" music with a modern techno beat which makes it sound even more develish). The writer walks for the first time into the club (with his bizarre friends) and is bewitched by the star, a super-sexy singer (who actually sings a mixture of disco music and Broadway show tunes, hardly the French music of the year 1900). While she is being lifted above the stage, she faints and falls. But she recovers, and the writer visits her in her dressing room. He wants to offer her a role in a new production, while she thinks that he wants to have sex. He keeps talking about his project, while she is basically having an orgasm by herself, while the dwarf and his friends are peeking from the window. Finally, she is moved by his romantic song (that sounds a lot like Elton John). But when she realizes that he is just a poor writer, and the rich, lusty Duke is knocking at the door, she is taken by fear and forces the writer to hide (there follows a lengthy scene in which the writer is simply trying to escape unseen). The Duke eventually finds out that there is a man in her dressing room, and refuses to believe the truth: that he is just a writer who wants to "sell" her his idea. Helped by his bizarre friends, who suddenly appear in the room, and by Ziegfield in person, anxious to save the friendship of the Duke, the writer explains the plot of his exotic musical. They improvise the whole musical in the room and the Duke likes it enough to fund it. These remain the four drivers of the action: the writer wants to complete his masterpiece; the singer hides her love for the writer from the rich patron; the Duke is devoured by jealousy; Ziegfield wants to keep the Duke interested in financing the musical. The catch is that she is getting sicker and sicker, more or less unbeknownst to all.
A very lengthy musical/choreographic scene shows the writer and the singer falling in love. In the meantime, the Duke demands two conditions for funding the musical: a deed on the "Moulin Rouge" and an exclusive contract with the singer. Basically, the singer is his for life, and, if she breaches the contract, he takes the entire night club. The whole cast goes to work frantically at the experimental operetta. They are all excited, enthusiastic. When he sees singer and writer kissing, Ziegfield reminds the singer that the Duke is investing a lot of money into this show and basically owns both her and the "Moulin Rouge". Ziegfield has a hard time containing the wrath of the Duke, who guesses correctly that something is happening between the two young people. So much so that the Duke himself seems to be part of the musical (he is, obviously, part of the film). And the fact that the writer keeps typing alone in his room seems to imply that he, the writer, is writing also the actions of the Duke. The same music that accompanies the love story of the two protagonists of the musical also accompanies their picnics and night encounters.
When the Duke wants to change the ending (so that the beauty chooses the rich disgusting maharaja), the writer opposes it. The show, clearly, mirrors their real life: the Duke wants both the show and real life to end with the beauty in the arms of the rich man.
She is torn between saving his musical by pleasing the Duke and loving him, the writer. The film reaches its zenith of pathos in the multitracked scene when she is about to give herself to the Duke: as he touches her, the writer sings and dances with the cast, and the flow of visual effects becomes a nightmare of montage. When the Duke is about to rape her, a friend of the writer hits him in the head and she runs to the writer, to pledge her love. But the events of the night clearly enrage the Duke, who tells Ziegfield that, lest she abides by the contract, the writer will die.
She had decided to elope with the writer, but Ziegfield warns her that the Duke has decided to kill the writer. Now it is not only a musical at stake, it is his life. She is still determined to run away, but Ziegfield tells her another horrible truth: the doctors say that she is dying of her disease. Ziegfield makes her realize that she would just kill the young man, to no use. If she truly loves him, she has to use her talent of actress to make him believe that she doesn't love him anymore, so that he will severe their relationship and the Duke will spare his life. She does that: she tells the writer that she has chosen the ending.
At the premiere, she is getting weaker and weaker, but goes on with the show and with the lie. The writer confronts her and ends up on stage. Ziegfield saves the show, but can't save the young man the writer publicly repudiates the woman and hands her over to the Duke then walks down the steps and faces the Duke before walking towards the exit, defeated. Art and life are now one thing. She has collapsed to the floor, now hardly able to breathe. But then she breaks down and starts singing the truth: that she still loves him. The writer stops and smiles, but the Duke's man aims to kill. The actors avert the murder, and turn it into a comical scene. The writer walks back onto the stage and sings the grand romantic finale with the woman. But the Duke in person grabs the pistol, and is about to shoot, when Ziegfield in person knocks him out. The musical ends well, but she dies in his arms. (He types the last few words of the story of the film on his typewritter in his room, and the film ends).
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