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Moulin Rouge 101
» Spoiler Warning: details on this page could spoil any surprise(s) in the story if you have not seen this movie.
In 1900, Christian, an impoverished writer who has come from Scotland the year before, types his story: he arrived in Montmartre and fell in with Toulouse-Lautrec and Bohemians who believe in freedom, truth, beauty, and love. They want to sell a show to the Moulin Rouge, and its impresario wants a backer so he can build a proper theatre. He's plying a Duke, who wants exclusive access to the favors of Satine, the Moulin Rouge's consumptive star. She wants to be a proper actress, so the Duke's offer is fine - except that she and Christian fall in love. Can Satine keep the Duke at bay without losing his patronage? Will the Duke discover the lovers and kill Christian? Can love trump jealousy?
Moulin Rouge: Recap and Review
What makes it so notable? A flashy yet stylish visual spectacle is the setting for a story about a big love. The movie incorporates a familiar touch by including well-known pop songs and features stellar performances by a strong cast.
What are its weak points? More than one critic's assessment is that people either love or hate this film, no doubt because what some see as "original," others see as "weird."
Verdict: Casual Fan or Big-Time Fangirl? Big-Time Fangirl
Comments: Ordinarily, I prefer more of a happily ever after, but Moulin Rouge ends well in the sense of, "Don't cry because it's over; smile because it happened."
- Quotes -
The good, the bad, the sad, the funny: the things we wish we'd thought to say first.
[The Bohemians are rehearsing a play that resembles a certain musical that begins with a nun singing atop a hill.]
Toulouse-Lautrec (singing): The hills are made with the euphonious symphonies of descant...
Doctor: I don't think a nun would say that about a hill.
Christian: Love? Above all things I believe in love! Love is like oxygen. Love is a many-splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love!
"The French are glad to die for love. They delight in fighting duels. But I prefer a man who lives and gives expensive ... jewels." Satine, singing her grand entrance
Satine: What's his type? Wilting flower? Bright and bubbly? Or smoldering temptress?
Zidler: I'd say... smoldering temptress.
Toulouse-Lautrec: Unbewievable! Stwaight to the ewephant!
Toulouse-Lautrec: He's got a huge... talent !
Satine: I can't believe it. I'm in love! I'm in love with a young, handsome, talented Duke.
Satine: Oh... not that the title's important, of course!
Christian: I'm not a Duke.
Satine: Not a Duke?
Christian: I'm a writer.
Satine (disgusted): A writer?
The Duke: You expect me to believe that scantily clad, in the arms of another man, in the middle of the night, inside an elephant you were rehearsing for a play?
Zidler: I am the evil maharajah! You will not escape!
Satine: Oh, Harold, no one could play him like you could.
Zidler: No one's going to.
Cast of Spectacular, Spectacular (singing): So exciting, we'll make them laugh, we'll make them cry. So delighting...
The Duke: And in the end, should someone die?
Christian: Wait! No, please wait. Before, when we were... when you thought I was the Duke, you said that you loved me, a- and I wondered if...
Satine: It was just an act?
Satine: Of course!
Christian: Oh! It just felt real.
Satine: Christian, I'm a courtesan. I'm paid to make people believe what they want to believe.
Christian: Love is a many-splendored thing, love lifts us up where we belong, all you need is love!
Satine: Please, don't start that again.
Christian: I was made for lovin' you, baby, you were made for lovin' me!
Satine: The only way of lovin' me, baby, is to pay a lovely fee!
Satine (before kissing Christian): You're going to be bad for business. I can tell.
Zidler: The Duke holds the deeds to the Moulin Rouge. He's spending a fortune on you. He's given you a beautiful new dressing room; he wants to make you a star. And you're dallying with the writer!
Satine: Oh, Harold, don't be ridic--
Zidler: I SAW YOU TOGETHER!
Satine: It's nothing. It's just an infatuation... It's nothing.
Zidler: The infatuation will end. Go to the boy. Tell him it's over. The Duke is expecting you in the tower at eight.
Christian: Then I'll write a song and we'll put it in the show and whenever you sing it or hear it or whistle or hum it, then you'll know. It'll mean that we love one another.
Nini (cluing the Duke in): This ending's silly. Why would the courtesan go for the penniless writer? Oops! I mean sitar player.
The Duke (about the play): Why shouldn't the courtesan choose the maharaja?!
Christian (forgetting the play): Because she doesn't love you!
Argentinean: Never fall in love with a woman who sells herself. It always ends bad!
Satine: All my life, you've made me believe I was worth only what someone would pay for me. But Christian loves me. He loves me, Harold. He loves me, and that is worth everything.
Zidler: Send Christian away.
Satine: He will fight for me.
Zidler: Unless he believes that you don't love him.
Christian: Tell me the truth!
Satine: The truth? The truth is that I am the Hindu courtesan... and I choose the maharajah. That's how the story really ends.
Toulouse-Lautrec: Christian, you may see me only as a drunken, vice-ridden gnome whose friends are just pimps and girls from the brothels. But I know about art and love, if only because I long for it with every fiber of my being.
Christian (to Satine): You did your job so very, very well! Why can't I pay you like everyone else does?!
Satine: Tell our story, Christian. That way we will always be together.
Christian: Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months. And then, one not-so-very special day, I sat down at my typewriter and wrote our story. A story about a time, a story about a place, a story about the people. But above all these things, a story about love. A love that will live forever. The End.
- Lessons Learned -
What can we learn from this film?
* Always this ridiculous obsession with love!
* A kiss on the hand may be quite continental -- but diamonds are a girl's best friend.
* There's nothing like a little poetry after supper.
* Not everyone can take criticism well.
* It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside.
* Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs.
* Sometimes love is bad for business.
* Sometimes - often, in fact - love is better than business.
* Be warned! An inflated ego might make you easy to deceive.
* A title isn't really that important.
* It's not that some people are jealous. They just don't like other people touching their things.
* Rich jerks rarely play fair.
* These silly writers let their silly imaginations run away with them.
* The show must go on.
* Creatures of the underworld cannot afford to love.
* A life without love? That's terrible!
* No, living on the streets. That's terrible.
* There is a general lack of concern for so-called ridiculous dogma.
* It's funny how closely art can resemble life.
* If you're going to write about love, you should probably have been in love first.
* Love is either a many-splendored thing or just a game, depending on who you talk to.
* Money really can't buy you love.
* Why live life from dream to dream and dread the day when dreaming ends?
* When love is for the highest bidder, there can be no trust.
* Without trust, there can be no love.
* Jealousy will drive you mad.
* Sometimes you must hurt someone to save them.
* Things aren't always as they seem.
* The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.
- Favorite Scenes -
Also known as "moments"
"Baz's biggest hit so far is a bravura blast of experimental filmmaking that presents turn-of-the-century Paris through a postmodern pop-tinged filter. The scene where Ewan McGregor's penniless writer Christian captivates Nicole Kidman's kinky courtesan Satine is one such sequence that creatively brings together Luhrmann's offbeat ideas. Taking the two protagonists and placing them on the top of the elephant tower in the grounds of the infamous Montmartre nightclub, Satine and Christian embark on their passionate love affair by singing a more cinematic version of Elton John's "Your Song". The sequence shows that not only do McGregor and Kidman have believable chemistry but that they can also hold a tune - all the while expressing the joie de vivre that serves as the very essence of the film. As with the rest of the movie it's pleasing on both eye and ear and bursts with life and exuberant flamboyance."¹
The Duke arrives unexpectedly while Satine and Christian are in the elephant room. Christian hides, and - knowing that the Duke might just kill them both - a nervous Satine tries to keep him from being discovered. At one point, the Duke starts to turn toward the table where Christian is hiding, and Satine distracts him with an urgent, "Don't!" Then she tries to play it down by continuing "--you just love the view?"
After the Duke discovers Satine and Christian alone, Satine insists that they were simply rehearsing for the play. The Duke is (understandably) skeptical, but Toulouse-Lautrec and the others, who have been watching, enter the room bustling about and backing up the story of the "emergency rehearsal." Zidler, who had also been watching, shows up and tries to usher the Duke out, but the Duke suddenly asks, "What's the story?" Unable to answer, Zidler stalls before putting Toulouse on the spot. Toulouse stammers briefly until Christian has an inspiration. "It's about love," as he smiles at Satine, "overcoming *all* obstacles."
"One of the film's very best sequences comes when our lovestruck hero (Christian) must sit and wait while his beloved (Satine) spends the night with a sleazy Duke. The boy's jealousy, fury, and frustration are then brought to cinematic life by way of a stellar musical number set to the classic pop song 'Roxanne.'"² Christian pleads in song, "You're free to leave me, but just don't deceive me..." The music and the way he's walking in the dark: it's so hauntingly beautiful.
On the play's opening night, Satine is about to go on stage. But backstage, Christian - hurt and furious thinking that Satine used him - hounds her, demanding, "Tell me you don't love me!" Trying to get away, Satine wheezes, unable to catch her breath. She's hurting too, but she sees the Duke's henchman with a gun. She knows that Christian is in danger; she wants him to leave, so that he'll be safe, and she cries, pleading with him to go. They wind up on stage, interrupting the play in an awkward moment. Zidler tries to recover and continues the scene, explaining that jealousy has driven Christian's character mad. Finally Christian seems to harden. With everyone watching, he drags Satine a few steps before she falls to the floor, coughing a time or two. Facing the Duke (who is seated in the audience), Christian says, "This woman is yours now." He flings money at Satine and declares, "I've paid my whore!" He tells Satine that she's nothing to him, but the harshness starts to give way to hurt. He chokes back sobs as he says, "Thank you for curing me of my ridiculous obsession with love."
- Afterthoughts -
Credit: most quotes and the movie description are from the IMDb: Moulin Rouge.
¹ This Favorite Scene excerpt is from the (now-defunct) ObsessedWithFilm.com.
² This Favorite Scene excerpt is from the (now-defunct) cinematical.com.
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