Movies Reviews

Moulin Rouge!: 8 Reasons Why It’s Baz Luhrmann’s Best Musical

Set in turn-of-the-century Paris, the infamous cabaret destination Moulin Rouge is the main star of Baz Luhrmann’s aptly titled musical Moulin Rouge!. Ewan McGregor plays Christian, a penniless poet who falls in love with the Moulin Rouge’s big star Satine (played by Nicole Kidman) who dreams of being a real actress. Though Satine has the ambition and talent to fly away from the underworld, as her boss refers to it, she has tuberculosis and is getting worse. Moulin Rouge!’s pop music covers are vibrant and dark, with each song’s choreography of Broadway musical quality. Indeed, the film pulls inspiration from Singin’ in the Rain and The King and I, which can be seen through the story, musical numbers, and costume design, as Nerdist explains. Everything about the film is over the top regarding elegance, huge talent, and tragedy — which makes it Luhrmann’s best musical.


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8/8 The Aspiring Writer and His Love

Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

Moulin Rouge revived the epic love story in a musical. The setting of turn-of-the-century Paris, a city recovering from a revolution, meant one thing: the city would be reborn. With rebirth comes new opportunities for everyone, the systems that divide had vanished. An aspiring writer like Christian could go to Paris, be mistaken for a Duke, and accidentally fall in love with a courtesan. Satine was well aware of her abilities, but was just as aware of how the revolution had only changed some aspects. She needed funds to officially leave the underworld she spent so long trying to escape. Love alone could not pay the rent. The tragic yet epic love story of Christian and Satine is post-Revolution Paris encapsulated, a new Paris that people know and love today.

7/8 A Reflective Narration

Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

As Christian is a poet, it’s only natural that the retelling of his life in Paris would be from a philosophical and reflective narrative. Before Christian’s soliloquy, the prelude of David Bowie’s Nature Boy is sung by Toulouse (John Leguizamo). A soliloquy is a character’s innermost thoughts that are not meant to be heard. Christian is grieving the loss of Satine, and in an attempt to move forward, he begins writing. His narration is full of hope and innocence and quickly descends into the darkness of the world he entered. All was not as it seemed in Paris, nor was Christian, a dreamer in a world without dreams. His soliloquy does more than set up the tone for the film, but also reveals who he was, is, and how the Moulin Rouge both gave him life and stole it away.

6/8 The Writer vs. The Duke

Richard Roxburgh in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

Every hero needs a villain, and every villain needs a hero. This much is true in Moulin Rouge. While Christian and Satine fall in love in the shadows, the Duke falls in love with Satine. Before anyone cries love triangle, let’s examine that a love triangle relies on each party having feelings. Christian and Satine are in love, truly, madly, deeply and the Duke is infatuated with Satine, someone by her own admission, gets men to fall in love with her. The Duke is just another man she sells her love to in order to keep the Moulin Rouge running and to have a career as a real actress. Satine is the empress of pleasure and business, something Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) knows how to exploit. In love triangles, two parties are often trying to best each other at the expense of how the pursued party may feel.

Related: Baz Luhrmann and the Generation of Maximalism

5/8 “El Tango de Roxanne”’s Devastation

Caroline O'Connor and Jacek Koman in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

One of the most tragic songs about love is “Roxanne,” performed by The Police, which is based on a sex worker Sting saw by a hotel in Paris, France. During Moulin Rouge’s cover by Jacek Koman, The Unconscious Argentinean, the cover takes on a darker meaning. The Unconscious Argentinean and Nini (Caroline O’Connor), one of the Moulin Rouge dancers, perform a tango while Satine has dinner with The Duke. The tango rendition of “Roxanne” is one of the best choreographed numbers in a musical because of the depths of emotion expressed via dance and plot line cohere in a beautifully devastating way.

Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

In the aftermath of “El Tango de Roxanne,” Zidler lies to The Duke, saying that Satine feels like a virgin. Though the obvious joke in the lie is that Satine has been a sex worker for a long time and nowhere near being on the other side of a first consenting sexual encounter. Instead of Satine covering the hit song “Like a Virgin,” Zidler covers himself with a white lace table cloth while cowering and running from The Duke. School of Sex Ed explains that the concept of virginity is largely reliant upon hetero-sex with the man dominating a woman rather than a consensual act among individuals, something perfectly embodied by Zidler and The Duke’s cat-and-mouse cover.

3/8 The Sparkling Diamond

moulin-rouge-sparking-diamonds
Bazmark Productions

During Christian’s soliloquy, he explains that Satine was called The Sparkling Diamond of the Moulin Rouge, the star of the cabaret show. She descends on the crowd from a swing with a spotlight on her. This entrance is the epitome of glamour, with Kidman doing the stunt herself.

Related: Baz Luhrmann’s Best Movies, Ranked

2/8 Kidman Channeling Marilyn Monroe

Nicole Kidman & Jim Broadbent in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

In addition to Satine’s trapeze entrance, she covers Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The perfect number for the Sparkling Diamond is paired with Kidman’s impeccable breathless speech pattern, made famous by Monroe herself. Satine, like Monroe, has tragedy surrounding her and is exploited by people who claim to love her.

1/8 Spoiler Alert: The Tragic Ending

Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!
Bazmark Films

The pièce de résistance is the finale, where Christian rushes onstage while Satine sings their song. As the curtain falls, so does Satine, succumbing to tuberculosis. She dies Christian’s arms, whose sobbing is drowned out by the crowd’s cheers.

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