Thursday, February 12, 2004

"Eight Bucks, French Girl!"


A Film Review of the Worst Film Ever Made, "Moulin Rouge!"

Copyright 2001 Glenn Walker

Anne-Sophie is one of my best friends. I love her to pieces. She’s a good friend, she was a bridesmaid at my wedding, she’s a great teacher and is probably one of the best Janets Rocky Horror has ever seen. But she’s got this French thing going on. Part of it is a curse of ancestry but she’s obsessed with anything French. Anything. And thus we come to Moulin Rouge!, the worst film I’ve ever seen.

By twisted coincidence the day this steaming piece of crap opened was Anne-Sophie’s birthday and she wanted all her friends to join her for a viewing of ‘this amazing film set in a French backdrop.’ Of course I hadn’t seen it yet so I had no idea what I was in for, and it was my good friend Anne-Sophie’s birthday – how could I refuse?

I’ve walked out of movies before but I don’t make it a habit. There are only two I can think of. I walked out of A View to a Kill on the promise of amorous attention and I walked out of Natural Born Killers because the violence was too much for my wife. It should be noted I saw both films later on by myself. I don’t walk out of movies. I usually don’t even go to the bathroom or concession stand once the previews start. This is a rule I should have broken the dreadful night of Moulin Rouge!.

That’s how much I like Anne-Sophie. I stayed in my seat because I didn’t want to upset her. It was her birthday after all. It was not because I thought the film might get better later on as some films actually do. I knew there was no chance of that.

The convoluted story concerns a writer, Ewan Macgregor, who falls for a showgirl, Nicole Kidman, and writes a show for her while she seduces a duke, Richard Roxburgh, who is financing said show. It’s all set amongst the backdrop of turn of the century Paris at the Moulin Rouge. Up front for those of us who wondered about these things, it is not a remake of the 1952 classic of the same name starring Jose Ferrer.

Baz Luhrman is a talented director. I didn’t care (and let’s note not caring for a film is a long way from pure hatred) for Strictly Ballroom but I really enjoyed his William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. R+J was a masterpiece of an age-old story blended into a contemporary setting and put to a modern score with fast cut MTV style camera techniques. I love it and actually own a copy.

He tried to force these techniques on Moulin Rouge! but it just doesn’t work. This film at its black cold heart is a stage production and MTV fast cuts don’t mesh well with that genre. Anyone who has seen any version of "Riverdance" can vouch for that. The camera never stops moving. Now this is an interesting approach when outdoors cruising the amazing miniatures set of Paris but not on inside shots. It is dizzying and annoying. Luhrman also uses the music approach here as he injects contemporary songs into the world of the Moulin Rouge. The cringe factor for me of the inclusion of "Smells Like Teen Spirit," "Heroes," "Lady Marmalade" and "Like a Virgin" into dialogue and turn of the century production numbers turns my stomach to a point one can’t imagine.

When some people see a bad movie they make this joke saying "That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back." I have taken this to heart regarding Moulin Rouge!. This is two hours, seven minutes and twenty-three seconds I will never get back, ever. I will be lying on my deathbed thinking that I could actually live for two more hours, seven minutes and twenty-three seconds longer if it wasn’t for that goddamned movie!

Of all the evils in this world - Disney, boy bands, Adam Sandler, Palestinians, marriage, poetry readings, Satanism, Little Feat, fast food restaurant rest rooms, pretentious movie critics - there is none so evil as Moulin Rouge.

Cough it up, Anne-Sophie. Eight bucks, French girl!

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