Friday, October 12, 2007

Moulin Rouge!

I would like to write occasional posts about my favorite films and books exploring why they are my favorites. We can start with my favorite movie, Moulin Rouge. Why is this my favorite film?

Realism is thrown out.
When I'm watching a movie, I know I'm watching a movie; I don't need anybody to try give me a sense of realism. Moulin Rouge knows it is a movie and lets it be a movie. That's why we can enjoy anachronistic songs. We know it's fake, so let's not pretend it's fake: let's enjoy people from a century ago singing songs from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Amazingly fun things can keep happening, and it's OK because we're just along to have fun, not to believe it.

The visual achievement is astounding.
The colors, the sets, the costumes, the movement, the choreography, is all a delight. The constantly shifting camera shows incredible technical ability (watch how quickly the camera shot and angle keeps shifting--rarely is the camera ever left to linger in one shot). It's a constant, living, energetic flourish. The first 25 minutes of the film is just magical.

It's metafictional.
There's a writer writing a play, and the play is based on his real life. But the events in the play end up impacting his real life--which of course effects the play. And at the end, the real life story and the play story come together in a way that cannot even be distinguished: Christian is the citar player and Satin is courtesan, and the relationships and the plots and the characters all come together as one.

Archetypal characters and worthwhile themes.
Beauty, freedom, truth, and love. The idealism of youth.

It's a musical, stupid.
How could this not be fun? I love musicals; little makes me happier than seeing people sing what they're supposed to be saying. Seeing familiar songs set into a plot with characters singing their emotions to each other is a gorgeously creative move.


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  2. It is even more metafictional that that. It is about Toulouse (he sings the first line "There was a boy. . .", who is telling the story of Christian, who is writing the story of his experience at the Moulin Rouge, in which they are writing a play about what they are going through that ends up impacting their lives.

    My film studies students and I had a good talk about this, and one thing that came out of it was that it makes the narration and story really unreliable, and also that accounts for some of the fantastic elements of the story. The visual and dramatic spectacle has almost an air of ledgend/storygossip about it. It makes it more understandable that everything is metaphorically so black and white (at least in that there are people that are good and people that are bad, and we can pretty much tell who it who, except Zidler and the mean whore, who end up somewhat redeeming themselves at the end). It is a really interesting film to analyze.