Sunday, 23 October 2011

Postmodernism: Film Review on "Moulin Rouge" (2001)

FIG.1 :Film Poster

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Producer: Fred Baron
Year: 2001
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadmen, Richard Roxburgh

Pop music obsessed Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge is an outstanding example of films that are far from perfect, and something which is perfectly new. Moulin Rouge is a pop culture collage, taking popular music (David Bowie, Madonna) and including lines such as "All you need is love" and "The show must go on." Luhrmann puts a great twist in the musical genre by mixing a period romance with contemporary music. Regardless its weird mashup Moulin Rouge is a mosaic of different tastes but somehow turned out as something spectacular.  
FIG.2: The whole gang.
Probably the most important element of the film is its theatricality. The desire to make Moulin Rouge appear more as a musical rather than a film is very well established from the beginning. For a start, the world Luhrmann has created is a vibrant world inhabited by artists, performers and circus freaks that include their articulate skills in their everyday life, as the world they are living in is a stage performance. It's a place where inhibition is a disapproval and the distinction between reality and theatricality is blurred. The film is all about colour and music, sound and motion; a delicious eye candy of a detailed set and costumes, and the Bohemian Utopia of the Moulin Rouge. It seems like a world anyone would love to live in, a world where feelings are expressed through music and emotions are depicted through colour and the environment surrounding you.  Knapp suggests that: "Moulin Rouge with it's electric mix of familiar stories, and familiar songs and its and its wanton mixing of 'reality' and playacting on various levels, seems to model for us the ways in which we live out what we see on stage and screen, borrowing songs, dialogue, situations, and whole scenarios, careening among a variety of options as we seek outthe most congenial fit." (Knapp. 2006:103)
FIG.3: Singing Scene.
But this film is not all about its beauty and glamour. While constantly surprising and very successful as a musical, its musical elements seem over enforced and exaggerating, as if it's making fun of the musical genre, while in fact it is a musical. And this is where the Postmodern feature of the film is revealing itself. There are a lot of features that prove how Moulin Rouge is trying to be a parody of a musical, but eventually becomes part of the musical genre. For example, the dance scenes are different in various parts of the film. In some scenes it seems serious, like a tango, in others it is slapstick and comical. Even the use of the camera brings out a rather funny effect with whip pans and cuts from character to character which depicts the chaos in the scenes. There is also a sense of mixing genres evolving around the characters, as they appear to be more like actors than singers, but actors that show their acting a bit more than the usual, resulting in a theatrical play on screen. Nelmes gives an interesting definition on the film's usage of mixed genres: "Moulin Rouge like so much of a contemporary Hollywood, presents us with a generic paradox; simultaneously being post-generic in the sense that hyper-conciousness of its text spills over singular classificatory boundaries yet attaining intelligibility precisely in relation to those generic formations."    (Nelmes.1999:162)
To sum up, Moulin Rouge is a film that can simultaneously satisfy you and surprise you. It can provoke all sorts of emotions to happiness, empathy and enthusiasm. Apart from a mish mash of genres, it is indeed a mixture of multiple emotions; a twist in film genres and feeling towards the characters. It is definitely worth to watch it more than once as you might discover something more each time.


Knapp, Raymond (2006) The American musical and the performance of personal identity. Princenton University Press: UK 
Nelmes, Jill (1999) An introduction to film studies.Routledge: USA

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