Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
Moulin Rouge
2001, 20th. Century Fox
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce

What do you get when you cross a spectacular Broadway musical style with the unlimited magic of film? The movie production, Moulin Rouge. Director Baz Luhrmann continues to push into unexplored territory with fantastic video imagery. The production leaves very little for the imagination to contribute - the brain is too busy keeping up with and interpreting the rapidly changing Images that transport the viewer into myriad permutations of the same drama. It is a sight to behold.

What do you get when you combine a Duke who believes power can demand everything, including love, with a courtesan who believes those without power can only prostitute themselves to the rich and powerful to get a life worth living, and with a naive young man infatuated with the power of a love he has never experienced. You get the story Moulin Rouge, and a plot filled with romantic and sexual tension.

Moulin Rouge will touch you at many levels. The well written characters themselves will affect you with the poignant beliefs driving their lives, making them take first one rocky path and then another. The dream is that love will win out in the end. Everyone's hope, from prostitute to pimp, is that love will win out in the end. Yet each character faces an "in your face reality" the extent of which forces a showman pimp, impresario Zidler (Jim Broadbent), to sell his star into lifelong sexual slavery, and his star believes deep in her bones that to get what she wants from life she must do this hateful thing.

Drawing some characters, the period, and location from real history, Moulin Rouge pits real life situations against real life desires. The story goes beyond art, beyond suggestion, beyond titillation, beyond promiscuity, beyond prostitution, to the myths that "prostitution means she loves me" and "selling your flesh can be a satisfying substitute for love." Baz Luhrmann's recent films are based on myths. This story is based on the mythological Orpheus, whose fear of losing love overpowered him, causing him to lose his lover forever. The larger than life cinematic Images in this production lay bare the gross realities of life before your eyes. It is, to quote the movie, a production of "spectacular spectacular," and it is sometimes garishly so, flooding you with Images of raised skirts, a barker selling flesh, and men who, rather than celebrating sexuality, gawk and revel in debauchery.

The grand illusion was clearly stated by the courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman), "I make men believe what they want to believe." Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? (Will you lay with me tonight?) They all want to believe she loves them, and some are driven to believe it absolutely. This particular world of lies is Moulin Rouge, a place of moral deference in a setting of criminal activity, where some try to rise above their environment and make the best of themselves - good intentions but bad methods. It could be Hollywood or Broadway today, or a town in Iowa, any place where there are people in whom fear creates slavery to the illusion of love, perverts love with grotesque caricatures that emphasize aspects of love, and then cruelly snatches it away.

Depending on your tastes, at ten to fifteen minutes into the film before the plot really takes hold, you may begin to grow tired of song and cinematic magic and wonder if the story actually goes anywhere. Even Satine's pandering to Christian's (Ewan McGregor) presumed desires becomes boring. Luhrmann overdid it a bit, but in pushing the envelope he took a risk and delivered a decent story, bringing back the musical and pushing cinema into new areas. Make no mistake, this is a musical, and it could have been done on stage as easily as on film. Luhrman explores drama through music and song. Like many films of today, this movie mixes really excellent music of today with a historical setting. Once again, sometimes it is too much of a good thing, and the interjection of modern music can be a bit jolting.

The characterization is well done, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) is a well portrayed villain, and the historical bohemians, including Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguizamo), add a realistic and often comic twist to the story that is delightful (watch for them climbing the elephant's tale).

I give this one four spotlights out of a possible five for the cinematic vision of the director, cinematography, special effects, film editing, casting, costumes, sets, writing, acting, music, and directing. It carries a PG-13 rating. Enjoy!


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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