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Moulin Rouge! (2001) Print E-mail
Monday, 01 November 2010
ImageBaz Luhrmann made a name for himself with his dazzling and extravagant filmmaking style.  His passion for dance, music and theater is readily apparent in all of his productions.  "Moulin Rouge!" is the last production by Luhrmann and completes his trilogy.

In 1992 Luhrmann released "Strictly Ballroom," an Australian release that combined ballroom dance with modern cinema.  In 1996 Luhrmann brought "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" to the screen, modernizing Shakespeare's classic romantic tragedy with the streets.  Finally, in 2001 Luhrmann topped his first two outings with "Moulin Rouge!".

These three films are known as the "Red Curtain Trilogy."  These three films are not sequels of one another, nor do the plots have any connection other than Luhrmann's filmmaking style.  What ties these films together is they all bring entertainment of the past into modern cinema.  With "Moulin Rouge!" musical theater is combined with cinema.

"Moulin Rouge!" is obviously over the top, but for once that is intentional.  Glittery and glamorous sets and costumes fill the screen from beginning to end.  The visual style is akin to hallucinatory filmmaking.  In fact characters in the film are seen drinking Absinthe and visualizing the notorious green fairy.

"Moulin Rouge!" is set in Paris at the end of the 19th century, being called the summer of love according to the characters.  In what is akin to the debauchery of the prohibition era, the Moulin Rouge is a wannabe-theater house that functions as a gentleman’s club.  Scantily clad and makeup plastered women fulfill desires.  But none are as sought after as Satine (Nicole Kidman).  She is known as the courtesan, the woman who every man lusts after.

Ewan McGregor portrays Christian, a writer that has come from England to write above his obsession, love.  His problem is that he has never been in love.  Through a series of fortunate events, Christian gets in league with the Bohemians, idealists of truth, beauty, freedom and love.  He is hired to write "Spectacular, Spectacular," a new bohemian play for the Moulin Rouge.
Christian must go to the Moulin Rouge to pitch his idea to Satine.  However, on this particular night the Duke, sought after to be an investor, is also schedule to meet with Satine, but for more pleasurable reasons.  Christian is mistaken for the Duke leading to some awkward and wonderful moments between Satine and Christian in an elephant-shaped bedroom.  This sequence is problem the best 15 or so minutes of the film.  The chemistry between Kidman and McGregor is palpable.

Luhrmann uses pop music from the past several decades to take the place of dialogues.  The music, for the most part flows seamlessly from one to another.  Nirvana is mixed with Madonna, which is mixed with Bowie, which is mixed with The Police.  Kidman and McGregor do all the singing and this may be a mistake for some.  While Kidman can pull it off, McGregor struggles with several of the high notes.  However, the realism is what makes it great.  Although, I will admit I did wince a few times during the melody and "Come What May."

"Moulin Rouge!" is no ordinary film.  The editing is fast paced and at times a bit too much to handle.  Visual effects are abundant, with people floating and flying awkwardly through scenes.  The art direction of this film is incredible.  While it is not for everyone, this film will dazzle regardless.

With such terrific art direction and cinematography one would hope that the Blu-ray video transfer would be terrific as well.  Fox does not disappoint.  The film is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with an AVC encode on a 50GB disc.  Without a doubt the most impressive feature of the Blu-ray transfer is the color reproduction.  More than any film before on Blu-ray, the colors are all the descriptors that go with color reproduction.  They are vivid, lush, deep, rich, boisterous and more than just leap off the screen.  This is simply one presentation that you have to see to believe.  Black levels are deep and occasionally result in some crushing, but it is brief and minor.  Softness creeps up a couple times throughout the film, but largely the film remains crisp and detailed.  The textures on the extravagant costumes have never been so well defined.  The SD DVD pales in comparison with this Blu-ray.  Grain remains intact, keeping that filmic texture intact.

"Moulin Rouge!" comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.  Technically, the track seems perfect.  There are no glitches or sync issues.  The original mix however, hinders the viewing and listening experience.  This is a musical to say the least so it is important for the audio track to be close to perfection.  Unfortunately that is not the case here.  The biggest drawback to this track is the vocal level.  Song vocals within the Moulin Rouge are obscured to the point they are unintelligible.  No amount of volume boosting will help you understand the lyrics.  This is very disappointing.  The more subdued songs have intact vocals that are clear without a doubt.  However, this back and forth is jarring.  This vocal unintelligibility is likely due to the original compression applied to the overall music tracks.  Aside from the vocal tracks, the rest of the audio presentation is smooth.  The LFE channel is reserved, but bass managed systems will feed a hefty amount of low frequency content to the subwoofer.  Rear speaker activity is limited to ambience and the occasional directional movement.  This provides an enveloping experience but not really immersive.  The audio for this release could certainly have been better, but it would require some remixing of the original stems.  As an audio aficionado this track gets a lower score from myself than others will likely give it. 

The special features on this Blu-ray are mainly from the past SD DVD releases, however, they have been upgraded to high definition.  For the most part all the featurettes are informative.  The special features section opens with a picture-in-picture commentary.  This uses an audio commentary with relevant storyboards and behind-the-scenes footage overlay.  The commentary members include Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Donald M. McAlpine and Craig Pearce.  This is an informative feature that is a must for all fans.

"A Creative Adventure" is the new featurette.  It covers the visual styles and filmmaking of Baz Luhrmann.  This feature also includes an introduction by Luhrmann.  There are about a dozen uncut footage sequences including an alternate opening and vocal tests.  There are six production featurettes that cover the cast, the writing, dance, music and editing.  There is a typical making-of featurette.  "The House Of Iona" goes behind Luhrmann's creative inspiration process.  The disc also includes some webisodes, trailers and is BD-Live enabled.

"Moulin Rouge!" isn't perfect.  There are some moments that drag on, particular toward the end.  However, the visual quality is enough by itself to make this a worthwhile purchase.  Highly recommended.

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