Moulin Rouge

Someday I’ll try to get my act together enough to write a full post about my primal response to Moulin Rouge. I touched on it here. I know I’m always saying this movie or that movie “changed my life”, and if that makes you roll your eyes (and I know that’s the case with some people out there) then this place REALLY isn’t for you. I am dramatic, yes, but I am honest. When I love things, I really really love them. This has been the case since I was a kid. I get swept away. I am suggestible, not in a naive way, but in an open way. Things GET to me. I let them IN. And that’s what happened with Moulin Rouge. With distance, my response to it seems a little bit confusing – I mean, the movie is fine, but it doesn’t warrant the response. I have never – and I mean NEVER – had such a response to a movie. I was in a bad bad way when I first came across it. 2002 was a suicidal year for me. And that film helped me keep going, helped me hang on. Literally. My poor roommate. She had to deal with me watching it once a day. I’d finish watching it, and then start it up again. This goes beyond watching. It’s something else.

My response to it was so powerful and irrational – beyond the intellect – that that’s why I haven’t really written about it yet. When one of the songs comes up on shuffle, I can feel that initial response in my body all over again. The throat-tightening sensation of hope … hope coming alive again … after disappointment … after giving up, really … The knowing inside that this too shall pass … knowing that life will go on … And even a heartache like THIS one will pass. Not go away. But will pass.

I know the criticisms of the film. I agree with a lot of them. It’s a headache, it’s too flashy, too many quick cuts, some of the humor doesn’t work … But in the end, that doesn’t matter. My heart, my soul, responded to that movie, not my critical thinking brain. Moulin Rouge helped me to hang on during a very very dark period.

Wild, too, how the memory is so powerful, I still feel it in the soundtrack. So often when you have those primal first-impression responses to a piece of music, a book, a movie, whatever … it’s not sustained when you re-visit it years later. Whatever magic or power the piece originally had has faded with time. I am no longer in the place I was in in 2002, and so I no longer hold onto Moulin Rouge as a life raft, but I can still feel the power in this story. Maybe the intensity of it all comes from it being a fable, and not realism.

I look at this promotional photo and I still feel it. I see such joy, such perfection, how he’s looking at her and supporting her – she can rest easy, he’s got her. She is supported enough that she can fully allow herself to feel and express her joy. I see in it hope that love is possible. I know it’s crazy, but that’s what I see. Somehow, all of that is encapsulated in his face. I look at his face and I feel hope.

Some things are just magic and you can’t explain why.

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12 Responses to Moulin Rouge

  1. Patrick says:

    Yes! Great movie! I don’t know why I was so proud of Nicole Kidman. I didn’t just enjoy her performance. I was proud of her for her singing and very happy for her. I don’t think I’ve ever been hapy for or proud of an actor.

  2. red says:

    Patrick – I know just what you mean. I thought she was amazing. That first number when she descends on the swing … just takes my breath away.

    And how HE watches that number … you just “get” how he falls in love with her instantly.

  3. Patrick says:

    Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place
    Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace
    Suddenly my life doesn’t seem such a waste
    It all revolves around you
    And there’s no mountain too high
    No river too wide
    Sing out this song and I’ll be there by your side
    Storm clouds may gather
    And stars may collide
    But I love you until the end of time

  4. JFH says:

    This was the movie that I thought: “Nicole is too good for Tom Cruise”.

  5. Jeff says:

    I remember the night I first saw the movie like it was yesterday. Our kids had just finished school and were spending the weekend with their grandparents, so we had a rare night out. After dinner, my wife literally had to drag me into the theater to see it; for some reason I just didn’t think I would like it. And immediately I was transfixed – just completely, totally enthralled. The moment when Nicole first descends from the “heavens” still gives me the chills. Before that, the last movie that affected me that way was “Pulp Fiction.” Quite a pair, I know…

  6. TeacherDave says:

    What i tell critics of the film is that it isn’t really about film technique or anything; it’s about pure, visceral emotional response. And on that level, it really is perfect.

    I had to hunt to find the two-disc DVD version, but it was worth it to get the extended dance sequences. Tango De Roxanne is just amazing.

    And for the record, I cry EVERY SINGLE TIME Ewan gives that keening wail when Satine dies. Even when I think I’m prepared for it, it still slices through my chest and leaves me blubbering like a baby.

  7. red says:

    Jeff – God, thank you! I am so glad to know it wasn’t just me!!

  8. red says:

    Dave – your comment brought this huge lump to my throat. Yes – something might be “imperfect” in an objective form-related sense – but “perfect” in other ways – because it just expressed exactly what it wanted to express!! Moulin Rouge, to me, was a flat-out raw expression of what Baz Luhrman wanted to say/

    And yes – there is something in Ewan McGregor’s performance – the whole thing – that just nails it. He is so THERE. It’s so vulnerable, so real … Beautiful.

    I found his work in particular to be so healing.

  9. red says:

    How wonderful and weird was John Leguiziano, too? As Toulouose latrec??

  10. Ann Marie says:

    This is one of my favorite movies. Saw it at Piper’s Alley and afterwards, Rick & I couldn’t even really go home. We went across the street to a local tavern and just kind of sat there. Occassionally, we’d just be like, “did you have any idea Ewan McGregor could sing?” or “How about that one scene where…”. It kind of left me speechless. I was a little skeptical that I would like it… thinking it might be too, I don’t know, out there. I enjoyed the first few scenes but LOST it the minute Ewan did “Your Song”. After that, I was hooked.

  11. red says:

    ann – yeah, I was skeptical about it too and didn’t see it when it came out in the theatre. I missed the whole thing, and ended up renting it in 2002. It just blew me away.

  12. Julia says:

    For me, it was Nicole singing the late, great Freddy Mercury’s song “Who wants to live forever”. Breaks my heart.

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