Fox Home Entertainment presents
Moulin Rouge (SE) (2001)
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return."- Christian (Ewan McGregor)
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh
Other Stars: John Leguizamo, Jacek Koman, Caroline O'Connor
Director: Baz Luhrmann
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content
Run Time: 02h:07m:39s
Release Date: 2001-12-18
DVD ReviewAt the end of the nineteenth century, an aspiring young writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor) comes to Montmartre to seek his fortune. Here he meets a colorful group of Bohemians (including Toulouse-Lautrec, played by John Leguizamo) who are putting a show together for Harry Zidler (Jim Broadbent), the boisterous, colorful proprietor of the electrified Moulin Rouge ("red windmill"), "a dance hall, a nightclub, and a bordello." Christian's gift for poetry brings him into contact with Zidler's star Satine (Nicole Kidman), a talented singer/actress and high-class prostitute who longs for legitimacy (professionally, and personally). When Satine and Christian fall in love, conflict with Zidler's lecherous investor The Duke (Richard Roxburgh) ensues, and dark times follow.
Director Baz Luhrmann and his co-screenwriter Craig Pearce maintain an almost elemental simplicity where the story of Moulin Rouge is concerned. It's a classic romantic triangle, incorporating familiar elements of La Boheme and the mythological story of Orpheus. The poor, honest Christian; the rich, possessive Duke; the beautiful, lost Satine; the mercenary but likable Zidler—all of these are archetypes, almost stereotypes. Moulin Rouge is a conglomeration of plot and character outlines used in hundreds of melodramas past.
But Luhrmann's highly visual post-modern musical fills in these outlines with remarkable style and unfaltering taste. There's not a trace of irony here—the score borrows liberally from popular songs of the twentieth century, but the eclectic, often brief quotations are always in service of the story, and one never feels that a song has been shoehorned in for the wrong reason. When Christian sings, "Love lifts up where we belong," it sounds genuine for the first time in its history. When Zidler regales the Duke with Madonna's Like a Virgin in a broad, comic pantomime of seduction, its over-the-top silliness and sheer chutzpah works. When Christian sings Elton John's Your Song to Satine, it's a brilliantly cinematic, highly emotional moment, but it's not a "show-stopper"—it's an important plot point, a perfectly executed musical number that still advances the story. And the score's primary original creation, Craig Armstrong's Come What May, blends in perfectly—it's a wistfully romantic song that serves as the film's love theme. It sounds like we've heard it many times before—but that's the point, isn't it? Moulin Rouge borrows, excerpts and modifies freely (a marvel of music licensing in and of itself), but it never feels canned or contrived; there are no Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band moments here, and the film revives the pop-music recycling tradition of Singin' in the Rain in grand, post-MTV style. From All You Need is Love to Chamma Chamma (a great Hindi techno-rap piece), Moulin Rouge always sounds just right.
Luhrmann's imaginative use of cinematic language is invigorating, occasionally exhausting and invariably effective. The digital pre-visualization and manipulation techniques pioneered by George Lucas are put to good use here—nary a frame of film has gone unblitted by digital means, but the techniques are applied with such skill and taste that they never call attention to themselves. Sequences are sped up and slowed down, film stocks and digital filters are employed to emulate the cinema of decades past, and visual elements are created out of whole cloth. From the film's old-school, silent-film opening, to the painterly, impressionistic blurring and heightened colors of the can-can sequence, to a dreamy dance across the sky under a Georges Melies-inspired singing moon, the digital effects support the story. Memorable images abound—Kylie Minogue appears as a tempting, besparkled green absinthe fairy (voiced by Ozzy Osbourne!), Zidler flies through the sky and cartwheels onto the stage in one incredible, swooping camera move, and sets are augmented by digital matte paintings intentionally designed to look theatrical and unreal. Production and costume design by Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie are period-inspired but not necessarily authentic, and there's a freewheeling feel to the film's "look"—Luhrmann and Martin pick a style for each sequence and run with it, approaching aesthetic limits without ever quite crossing them.
The effect of all this production effort is only enhanced by fine performances from the cast of Moulin Rouge. Everyone involved seems to "get it," and director Luhrmann assembles solid performances from lines that must have seemed corny on the page but always work on the screen. The film somehow shifts gears from high farce to high drama without missing a beat, and some of the singing was performed live on the set, a revolution in and of itself which no doubt aided the performers immensely. Ewan McGregor displays an endearing na ï vete, boyish good looks, painful emotion and a wonderful singing voice as Christian, and Nicole Kidman's porcelain beauty and fiery intensity lend weight to her passionate (if slightly unpolished) singing. Jim Broadbent is "bigger" onscreen than I've ever seen him before, dancing, singing (albeit not always in his own voice) and playing Zidler to the hilt, and Richard Roxburgh achieves a fine, cartoonish ratty smarminess as the Duke. John Leguizamo is fun and touching as Toulouse-Lautrec (mechanically and digitally shortened), Jacek Koman is comically intense as "the unconscious Argentinean," and Caroline O'Connor is wonderfully bitchy as Satine's jealous rival Nini Legs-in-the-Air.
I'm beginning to run out of superlatives to describe Moulin Rouge, so let me close with the suggestion that Baz Luhrmann's third "Red Curtain" movie must be a work of art, based on my experiences during its theatrical run. True art always inspires strong reactions one way or the other—my wife Karen and I saw the film three times at different theaters, and each time there were a number of people who left after the first reel. It's an unconventional, demanding movie—and a musical, to boot—so if you haven't seen it, my advice to you is not to resist its charms. Bend with Moulin Rouge like a willow in the wind, and let its richness overwhelm you and carry you along into its emotional, theatrical world. It's melodramatic, but heartfelt and honestly romantic, a triumph of style with more substance than might at first be apparent. As Zidler would say, "At the Moulin Rouge... you'll have fun!"
Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Moulin Rouge is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio, with an anamorphic transfer drawn from a clean source print. The excellent digital transfer captures every nuance of the film's extensive production design, from the intentionally imperfect look of the opening sequence to the rich details of Satine's costumes. Shadow detail is excellent, colors are rich and vibrant without ever seeming oversaturated, and I spotted no distracting edge enhancement anywhere. There's a brief bit of "grain dance" in one shot of a deep blue sky, but motion artifacting is rare (no mean feat in this case) and I can't imagine Moulin Rouge looking any better than this on DVD. A great transfer of a highly visual production.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: The full impact of Moulin Rouge depends upon its soundtrack as much as its visuals, and Fox's DVD transfer doesn't disappoint in this department. The disc includes English Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS soundtracks, a Spanish Dolby 2.0 Surround track, and an "Audio for the Visually Impaired" English soundtrack. Both of the primary tracks sound terrific, with broad dynamics, impressive frequency range, expansive use of the 5.1 soundstage, and clear, crisp dialogue and music. The DTS track sounds brighter to my ear than the Dolby Digital presentation, which isn't quite as dynamic but has a warmer sound in some respects; I certainly can't complain about either.
The Spanish 2.0 track features solid performances by the actors dubbing Satine and Christian, though the other characters aren't handled as well, and the translation is occasionally awkward (none of the songs are translated). The English 2.0 audio track for the visually impaired is well-executed, accommodating plenty of descriptive information about action, sets and costumes without stepping on any dialogue. It's a nice touch and will surely be appreciated by its intended audience.
The excellent quality of both 5.1 tracks makes Moulin Rouge an impressive audio experience, and it sounds better at home than in any of the three theaters I visited during the film's theatrical run. Fine work, although the audio tracks cannot be switched "on the fly."
Audio Transfer Grade: A+
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 36 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Red Curtain Box Set
9 Deleted Scenes
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, and cinematographer Donald M. McAlpine; co-writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Layers Switch: 01h:05m:37s
- Set Design, Costume Design, and Graphic Design Galleries
- MTV Movie Awards "Lady Marmalade" Clip
- International Sizzle Reel
- Director's Mock Previsualizations
- The Little Red Book
The image quality of some of the supplemental footage is rather poor, consistently in nonanamorphic format with ratios from 1.33:1 to 2.35:1, with much of the video material in 1.66:1 letterboxed format; audio is generally reduced to a flat-sounding, television-friendly 2.0 mix. Some of the deleted/extended scenes are drawn from videotape or an Avid editing session, with low resolution and murky imagery compared to the feature. But these extensive, substantial and valuable extras cover almost every aspect of the production, and will be thoroughly appreciated by any fan of this amazing, risky movie.
This substantial commentary track features director Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, and cinematographer Donald M. McAlpine, recorded together in conversational fashion. The team discusses the "Red Curtain" philosophy, lighting, camera technique, visual storytelling concepts, and the film's audience-"testing" nature. It's an insightful and fascinating track about the painstaking visual effort, best summed up by one of Luhrmann's remarks: "This is not about naturalism."
Co-writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce discuss the story, the characters, and the structure of Moulin Rouge, all of which underwent considerable change during the script's gestation and evolution. Pearce and Luhrmann are old friends, since childhood in fact, and this track provides an eavesdropper's perspective on their collaborative approach and shared energy, as their voices overlap when they get excited about a subject. Luhrmann does most of the talking—Pearce's interjections are occasionally limited to "mm"'s of agreement—and the track frequently goes silent for short stretches. It's not as content-rich as the Production Commentary track, but it's a worthwhile addition to the disc.
Behind the Red Curtain Branches
This interactive feature turns on a "green fairy" icon, which appears eight times during the film to allow branching to behind-the-scenes featurette material. I always have mixed feelings about this sort of implementation (also used on The Matrix and Monty Python and the Holy Grail: SE)—while it's nice to see the material "in context" with the finished film, there's no convenient way to access the featurettes directly. The featurettes are also presented in nonanamorphic format, making the jump between feature and featurette awkward in many home theater environments. But the content is substantial, including 8 branching segments available at appropriate points during the film:
This is a look at the digital and live-action layers comprising the film's complex opening shot: blue-screen shoots with motion tracking dots, digital elements, physical models, and traveling mattes. There isn't a lot of explanation provided, but one gets an impression of the number of separate pieces involved, if not of the process as a whole, and there's a "first draft" version presented as well.
#2—History of the Moulin Rouge
Production/co-costume designer Catherine Martin narrates this brief segment on the historical Moulin Rouge and its real-life proprietor, Harold Zidler, whose apparent fascination with electricity provided fodder for the creative process, though the subject isn't prominent in the finished film. One wishes this segment were longer, as it would be nice to know more about the historical inspiration for this freewheeling film.
A look at the design and construction, using sets and scale models, of Christian's penniless writer's garrett.
#4—The Main Hall
This extensive segment discusses the history and production design of the Main Hall of the Moulin Rouge, with some behind-the-scenes footage of filming on the full-scale set and a look at the integration of the set with physical and digital exterior models, including some rough pre-visualization video.
Catherine Martin discusses the external "garden" environment of the original Moulin Rouge, as well as its realization in the film, over visual material covering the sideshow attractions, topiary, sets and models involved.
#6—Writing the Medley
The film's screenwriters and musical staff discuss the evolution of the "Elephant Medley" sequence, which quotes a number of pop songs to construct a musical romantic conversation between Christian and Satine. It's interesting to learn that the original idea was to use a single song at this point, but that no one popular song contained enough story content to carry the scene; hence, the eclectic medley.
#7—The Gothic Tower
This is a brief segment on the intended eroticism of the Gothic Tower set, and includes some deleted footage of an S&M fetish scene set in the tower starring Mome Fromage (Lara Mulcahy).
This look at the film's finale follows its rehearsal, shooting, and final structure. Baz Luhrmann comments on the process, and we see some behind-the-scenes activity during shoot days 76 and 77; there's also a candid clip of Luhrmann and choreographer John 'Cha-Cha' O'Connell figuring out the ending mid-production.
This section, provided in conjunction with the transfer's THX Certification, provides some simple audio and video tests for home theatre system calibration. It's not nearly as extensive as a full-blown disc like Avia, but it provides some good basic tests that will make any uncalibrated system look and sound better.
The Making of Moulin Rouge
This made-for-cable documentary (in 1.33:1 full-frame format with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio) is more substantial than most "behind-the-scenes" featurettes, primarily due to its "HBO Special" program length. The overall tone is still heavily promotional—it's good to have for the historical record, but the content isn't as compelling as the rest of this fine two-disc set.
Five brief featurettes include interviews and film clips, including test footage, covering stars Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor (with good humor and kudos to all involved), John Leguizamo (who found his role more challenging than he expected), Jim Broadbent (stretching muscles that haven't been stretched in a long time), and Richard Roxburgh.
This Story is About...
An Interview with Writers Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce covers their collaborative style, though the video clips here aren't as insightful as the full-length Writers' Commentary available during the feature.
Craig Pearce Reads Early Treatment is a bit of a misnomer, as Pearce only reads briefly from a bit of the first draft. But he also discusses some outlandish early concepts, including a "Count von Groovy" character (predecessor to The Duke) who was to hook Christian and Satine on morphine.
Old Storylines and Script Comparisons is a substantial supplement, which includes on-screen text pages covering the ENTIRE rough first draft of the script circa December of 1998, as well as evolving versions of the opening sequence from December 1998, April 1999, and June 2000. It's fascinating to see the evolution of the script in such detail—a few individual scenes from the first draft survived largely intact, while the plot and structure changed significantly as the script (and indeed the film as produced) evolved. This is a great feature, and thankfully not a DVD-ROM exclusive (all of the Moulin Rouge extras are designed for stand-alone players).
The Cutting Room
Here we find five abandoned edits of finished scenes (with substantial deleted footage), accompanied by an introductory interview with editor Jill Bilcock and director Baz Luhrmann. The scenes include:
Come What May—Preview #2—an early, lengthier version of the sequence.
Dance Across the Sky—Preview #1—a very different version of this number, with the singing moon playing a more prominent role, accompanied by a choir of "star children."
Zidler's Rap—First Assembly—a slower, natural-speed version of this sequence, which was sped up for the finished edit. It also features some musical flatulence by an actor portraying Le Petomane, the real-life sideshow performer famed for his anal agility.
Outside It May Be Raining... to... Meet the Bohos—First Assembly—a more exposition-oriented version of this sequence, which was compressed and improved in numerous subtle ways as the film approached completion.
Green Fairy Previsualization—not so much a deleted scene as a rough draft, this version of the green absinthe fairy sequence stars "Serena the Visual FX Coordinator" in the role later assayed by Kylie Minogue
A Director's Mock Previsualizations (with apologies to the actors) section provides an entertaining look at one of Luhrmann's directorial tools. While planning "pickup" shots (to be filmed after principal shooting) during the editing process, Luhrmann assembles existing stills and rough footage into a "maquette," then voices the characters himself to get a feel for how the scene should play after the new footage is acquired. It's fun stuff, and an intimate look at the practical process of assembling a movie.
A Word from Baz Luhrmann introduces this section, and the director seems quite happy that several dance sequences can be presented here on DVD without the intrusion of story. All four of these segments are presented in extended format as compared to the finished film, and three of them (Hindi excepted) provide multi-angle views with 4 angles on the action available (as well as a four-screen simultaneous overview angle). The Tango, Hindi, Can Can and Coup D'Etat sequences are presented here; audio is in high-quality Dolby Digital 5.1 format, but the video-mastered image is of poor quality, making this feature less valuable than it might have been.
A Choreography section includes interviews with choreographer John 'Cha-Cha' O'Connell and dancer/actress Caroline O'Connor, along with rehearsal footage and candid clips of the "live" choreography as performed for the crew in a bare studio space. The intensity and finesse of O'Connell's choreography is readily apparent, and it's great to see these energetic dance designs "in the raw."
The Musical Journey begins with composer Craig Armstrong and music director Marius De Vries, interviewed briefly about the musical texture and century-spanning range of Moulin Rouge. Interesting, with some behind-the-scenes material, but not as substantial as this music-intensive production deserves.
A brief Interview with Fatboy Slim talks to one of today's premier techno arrangers and mixers—technology fans will appreciate his dedication to his vintage 16-bit Atari ST MIDI computer, obviously a faithful "instrument" for years.
The Lady Marmalade Phenomenon includes two pieces featuring the neo-disco sound of "Lady Marmalade," a group featuring pop/rap singers Christina Aguilera, Li'l Kim, Mya and Pink. The DVD includes a live performance seen on the MTV Movie Awards, as well as a music video featuring the same song. The musical arrangement is creative, and these girls can certainly sing and look good in turn-of-the-previous-century lingerie, but the connection to Moulin Rouge seems tenuous and commercial at best. The featured tune is included on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack CD, but not used in this form in the movie. The "Lady Marmalade" approach reduces the rich Rouge milieu to corsets-and-garters pop exploitation, nothing more, and may have given many viewers an incorrect impression of the film.
This topic kicks off with an Interview with Production Designer and Co-Costume Designer Catherine Martin, who augments her substantial contributions to the DVD with further thoughts on the design process. Her interview segments were apparently shot in two sessions with some time between them, and the differences in her "looks" are jarring at first glance—clearly she's a dedicated designer, engineering her own appearance to striking effect.
An extensive Set Design section features extensive still galleries of artwork, models, sets, and other process artifacts related to the film's nine sets. The astounding variety in the look and feel of each key location is well-captured by this DVD feature.
A second Interview with Co-Costume Designer Angus Strathie discusses the extensive costume design and construction effort required by Moulin Rouge. Brief, but informative.
A Costume Design gallery covers four costuming topics, with still images of design drawings, actors' modeling sessions, and individual, exquisitely detailed costume pieces.
A Graphic Design section is implemented using full-motion video, with a digital pan across posters, paintings and other incidental period-style artwork created for Moulin Rouge, accompanied by appropriate music. There's some great stuff here that whizzes by (if it's even seen) on the screen, particularly "vintage" posters promoting Satine and Nini Legs-in-the-Air, and this feature is just as valuable as the other extensive galleries.
A Smoke and Mirrors section provides insight into two key special effects sequences, accompanied by behind-the-scenes production footage and interviews with visual FX personnel at Animal Logic. "The Evolution of the Intro" discusses the complex opening shot, while "The Green Fairy" details the artistic and technical evolution of the fairy's look, "sparkling" particle effects, and wing design.
Extensive marketing supplements include an International Sizzle Reel, comprised of clips and clippings from entertainment-oriented television programs and magazines, heralding the coming of Moulin Rouge. Most of the material focuses on Kidman's glamorous look as Satine—it's all pure fluff, but will become valuable history in the long run.
A Photo Gallery includes behind-the-scenes stills and publicity photos, organized into five sub-sections by photographer.
The Little Red Book appears to be a reconstruction of a press book or other pre-release publicity gimbob—it's a silent-movie-style sequence of stills, visually depicting the plot's basic setup with intertitle cards. A nice artifact to have on hand.
The Poster Gallery features numerous domestic and international variations of the movie's poster, most prominently featuring stars Kidman and McGregor.
The Trailers section is surprisingly brief, with no television spots and just two theatrical trailers, a 1.85:1 letterboxed US trailer and a 2.35:1 letterboxed Japanese trailer (also in English, though its focus is more on the story and less on the imagery). There's also a promotional trailer for Fox's "Red Curtain Box Set," due for release early next year, which will include Moulin Rouge as well as Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet and Strictly Ballroom.
A brief 30-second Music Promo Spot promotes the soundtrack CD, though again it focuses on the "Lady Marmalade" single to the exclusion of the movie's richer musical content.
Love 'em or hate 'em, Moulin Rouge contains 10 of them for your hunting pleasure, usually in the form of an "off-menu" windmill or green fairy icon; I was only able to locate 6 in time for this review's publication. They range from on-set goofing off to candid clips of obscure origin and import—you won't miss much if you don't look for them, but there are a few gems buried among the ova obscura. I particularly enjoyed a lengthy outtake of Your Song in which McGregor and Kidman mug and frug with juvenile abandon.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsMoulin Rouge is a rare species indeed, a highly stylized movie musical that works aesthetically and emotionally from beginning to end. Fox's 2-disc DVD set is chock-full of supplements covering every aspect of the production, and the transfer is top-notch in every department. The finest "out there" movie I've seen in quite a long while, and highly, highly recommended.
Dale Dobson 2001-12-17