ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  baz luhrmann

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  musical

LENGTH  -  127 minutes

RELEASED  -  1 june 2001

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox


ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $52,500,000
moulin rouge - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from moulin rouge at

buy the dvd from moulin rouge at

a poet falls for a beautiful courtesan whom a jealous duke covets in this stylish musical, with music drawn from familiar 20th century sources.

the movie was shot largely at fox studios in sydney, australia, with no location filming at all.


picture from moulin rouge

picture from moulin rouge

picture from moulin rouge


five out of four possible stars

Go see this movie! I'll say that right off the bat. I have to admit I went to this film expecting a mildly amusing musical. But what I got was a wonderful story filled with humor and drama. A critic said that the film is "like being stuck inside a kaleidoscope for two hours while a madman plays a calliope next to your ear." (from Bob Aulert of Culture Vulture) I think that this observation is just untrue. Sure, it looks like it was edited by a madman, but that's its charm. What did Aulert expect? The camera to sit in one spot for the whole two hours?

The medium (musical/drama) lends itself to being original and resourceful. The world that Moulin Rouge endeavors to create strains its credibility in that in normal circumstances it would seem to be phony. Therefore, alternate techniques of storytelling must be used to ensure that audiences believe the world they are seeing. And believing that this world really existed (which it did) is not that hard. Baz Luhrmann (the director) has a very inventive way of beginning the story, so right out of the starting gate, the audience realizes that this story is hyper reality.

The folks at Fox Studios allowed the title artist to play with the logo a bit by revealing the company's logo with a giant red curtain, the type of curtain you'd see at a theater from one-hundred years ago. There's also a conductor at the bottom of the screen during the 20th title fanfare, who waves his arms around like a lunatic. It's really hilarious and a fun start to a fun movie. And I don't believe that the filmmakers ever intended the audience to forget they were watching a movie. Because at some points, the hyper reality just becomes too hyper. The semi-realism strains credibility and yet, it is very easy to lose one's self in the story.

It's almost like a party you don't feel invited to at first, but then you start enjoying the movie so much, it's hard to leave. Perhaps it is the uniqueness of the film itself that makes it so enjoyable. It's not just another film with wide shots, close-ups and over-the-shoulders. The camera work is really unique. And speaking of camera work, I have to complement Donald McAlpine on his cinematography. He has shot such films as The Edge, Romeo + Juliet (another Luhrmann picture), and Clear and Present Danger. The camera work in this film most resembles Romeo + Juliet in that it seeks to abandon the traditional "upright" axis that cinematographers shoot from.

In Rouge, McAlpine turns the camera on it's side and shoots from extreme high and low angles, adding to the hyper reality created by the set dressings and the costumes. And although during the previews and trailers for the film the sets looked way too colorful and distracting, I saw that during the movie, they simply added to the whole atmosphere of the film. Having zany costumes and ordinary camera work or visa versa would have probably made the film less believable. It was necessary for the filmmakers to create an the entire world of the Moulin Rouge, and backing down from any element in the picture (camera work, costumes, songs) would have made it seem like some part of the film was missing.

Now, as a person who isn't really a musical fan (musical in the sense that people spontaneously burst into song), the music in this film really surprised me. In addition to having quite a lot of original music, the songwriters took lines and music from about a hundred different modern love songs and pop songs. It was very funny to see Ewan McGregor burst out into song, singing a few lines from a "Police" song and then switching into a Madonna song. Come to think of it, there were about ten separate songs from Madonna. And the modern additions to the soundtrack fit the film just fine, never mind that the story takes place in 1899.

As a final note on the film, I'll talk about the actors (or singers) in Moulin Rouge. The cast was large and varied, but like the film itself, the many characters only added to the film, making it seem like a real place, rather than a bunch of painted sets on a sound stage. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor both have surprisingly good singing voices. And the over-the-top production of Moulin Rouge did not overshadow their characters at all.

In fact, both characters seemed really to belong in the world the film created. Additional characters needing a mention for their good performances include John Leguizamo (who plays Toulouse Lautrec) and Jim Broadbent (who plays Zidler). And there are many more characters in the film that give it a rounded and renaissance-like quality.

Okay, still another word on the picture, I'd like to spend a moment on the special effects in the film. During transitional sequences, the filmmakers created fly-throughs of Paris one hundred years ago. The shots were composed and colored in that sepia tone that, added with aging effect like scratching, really completed the effect that the filmmakers were trying to immerse you. This picture is fantastic. I don't say that about all movies that I like, but this film certainly has earned it.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

content 2000 - - ninth symphony films - photographs 20th century fox 2001
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