Moulin Rouge! (Blu-ray)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 126 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Portuguese
MSRP: $ 34.99
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Review Date: October 14, 2010
Apart from some Disney animated films, the musical for several decades had been one of cinema’s moribund genres until the advent of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! Sure there were occasional modest successes like Little Shop of Horrors, but attempts at modern screen musicals that didn’t involve talking teapots or singing hunchbacks (for example Newsies done by Disney, the only studio having any success at all with song and dance) flopped miserably. Moulin Rouge! certainly brought 21st century sensibilities to the fore in fashioning this story of love and loss in turn of the century Paris. At it turned out, Moulin Rouge! itself was only a moderate box-office hit; it would take the next year’s Chicago to bring movie musicals back in a big, big way, but Moulin Rouge! laid the groundwork, and it’s safe to say that it doesn’t look, sound, or feel like any other movie ever made.
In Paris of 1900, poet Christian (Ewan McGregor) recounts the last year of his life, a pivotal moment in his existence when he fell in love for the first time with the lovely, consumptive Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star singer/courtesan at the Moulin Rouge, a combination dance hall and bordello. The boss Zidler (Jim Broadbent) has dreams of turning the place into a legitimate theater, and in Christian, he’s found the talent to bring those dreams to life if he can find a wealthy patron to bankroll the entire enterprise. He appears in the person of the Duke of Worcester (Richard Roxburgh) who expects Satine as his prize for his patronship, something Zidler has no problem promoting but which Satine, who has fallen in love with Christian, finds difficult to agree to.
From the opening Fox fanfare to the closing taps on the typewriter keys, one knows he’s in rarefied atmosphere watching this frenzied, frantic film. The stylized opening taking the viewer in a fast clip through Paris as if experienced through an old film leads us into the Moulin Rouge where people are in the garb of the day but are anachronistically singing and dancing to modern show tunes by Rodgers and Hammerstein and Jule Styne and pop songs like “Material Girl” and “Lady Marmalade.” Right away, director-producer-writer Luhrmann has established his ground rules: an overexcited pace where anything goes musically with the frame crammed with close-ups, razor-edged cutting, and a story that borrows heavily from La Boehme (which Luhrmann later brought to both stage and screen to great acclaim) with its doomed central lovers hounded by a jealous rival. Despite the plethora of musical numbers, the film is a bit too long to sustain such a simple love story, and the film begins to wane a bit in energy and power toward the end, especially with the gargantuan Arabian tale that has been mounted at the Duke’s expense that goes on and on with amazing visuals but undernourished musicality.
At its best, however, Moulin Rouge! simply soars. The two stars’ voices blend beautifully in three wonderful ballads: “One Day I’ll Fly Away,” “Come What May” (the film’s thematic love song), and especially in their initial foray of melody and movement “Your Song” where the director takes a love ballad and spirals the lovebirds into the clouds for a surrealistic dance the likes of which we haven’t seen since Astaire and Vera-Ellen did it in The Belle of New York. Luhrmann’a camerawork goes spinning in ecstasy with the “Elephant Love” medley while “Like a Virgin” and “Tango de Roxanne” are so hyperbolically conceived and executed that the viewer feels he’s on speed while watching and hearing the movement and sound build to a shattering series of climaxes.
Nicole Kidman received an Oscar nomination for her work in this movie, and she indeed wrings every ounce of emotion out of the very predictable and familiar story of Satine. She’s also sensational in the song and dance numbers and has never looked more voluptuously beautiful. Ewan McGregor’s musical gifts are indeed an eye-opener. Possessed with a belt voice of power and precision, he works his way through the emotions of love and loss with great sensitivity. All of the other actors, however, exaggerate mannerisms and feelings to such a stylized degree that they seem to exist in a more cartoonish world than the one the two stars are inhabiting. Jim Broadbent won an Oscar in 2001 for Iris, but his outrageous, oversized performance as Zidler probably contributed to his victory. There are moments where we fear Richard Roxburgh is going to explode with the elephantine outrage and jealousy he has to exhibit. John Leguizamo and Jacek Koman (who also does a nifty tango) aptly overdo two other bohemians who play a part in the tragedies at Moulin Rouge.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 is faithfully reproduced in 1080p using the AVC codec. The riotous colors repeatedly pop from the screen in lushly saturated hues that never bleed but constantly dazzle the eye. The varying skin tones of the movie’s participants are replicated to perfection, easily achieved when contrast has been dialed in so amazingly well. Detail in hair, skin, and clothes is everything it should be in such a sharp, reference quality transfer. The film has never looked this amazing on home video. The film has been divided into 36 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers the thrilling musical arrangements in a sensationally lush and immersive way that will likely have you repeating individual songs to better hear the terrific orchestrations which are magnificent to the ear. All channels benefit from the musical accompaniment with singing and speaking voices firmly anchored to the center channel. There are no aural artifacts like hiss, crackling, pops, or flutter: just beautiful high fidelity sound that matches the best musical soundtracks currently available on Blu-ray.
Spectacular, Spectacular mode offers the audio commentary with a succession of picture-in-picture overlays featuring behind the scenes shots, sketches, blue screen photography, and stills along with pop-up windows identifying each song as it appears (title and authors) and other tidbits of trivia as well as branching options for behind-the-scenes featurettes (many of the vignettes located elsewhere on the disc) on all aspects of the production and glimpses into Bazmark’s vaults (also on the disc in the bonus section). The audio commentary can also be played separately, and it features Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Donald M. McAlpine, and Craig Pearce in interesting edited together conversations concerning the movie, their goals, and their reactions to what they achieved.
“A Word from Baz” features the writer-director in a 2-minute introduction to the bonus features explaining the work that went into making the Blu-ray release something special. It’s in 1080p.
“A Creative Adventure” has Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin discussing their personal and professional collaboration mixing their life and art in unique ways. It runs 11 minutes in 1080p.
“The House of Iona” gives us a brief tour of the production facility which Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin work and live from. We see behind-the-scenes footage of the dance rehearsal hall, the recording room where the stars put down their vocal tracks for the movie, the art studio, and other places of interest in this 7 ¼-minute featurette in 1080p.
“The Making of Moulin Rouge!” is a 26-minute overview of the production of the movie, done entirely within a studio in Australia featuring the director, the stars, the co-writer, choreographer, and other members of the crew discussing their work on the movie. It’s in 1080i.
The Bazmark Vault section of the bonus features offers the featurettes also available in the Spectacular, Spectacular Mode. Separately, the 1080p featurettes are:
“Father & Son,” (6 ¼ minutes) the Cat Stevens song used for a different opening to the movie that was abandoned.
Nicole Kidman’s First Vocal Test (1 ¾ minutes)
Early Cut of Zidler’s Rap (3 minutes)
Unbridled Lust (5 ¼ minutes), the can-can number
A Kiss, a Touch, or a Pat (1 ¾ minutes), staging the opening number
Nicole and Jim Rehearse at Iona (1 ½ minutes)
Ewan and Nicole’s First Dance (2 ½ minutes)
Zidler’s Jig (¾ minute)
Directing the Man in the Moon and a Deleted Cut (3 ½ minutes)
Directing “Like a Virgin” (2 ¼ minutes)
The Duke’s Happy Ending (1 minute)
Jealousy Tango Early tests (2 ¾ minutes)
Rehearsal Footage of the Jealousy Tango (3 ½ minutes)
Rehearsing Ravishment (3 ¾ minutes), the choreographer and Nicole’s stand-in do the steps
On Set with Toulouse Tonight (1 minute)
“The Stars” is a section of 1080p interviews with the five primary stars of the movie discussing their characters and their work in the film. Interviewed are Nicole Kidman (3 ¾ minutes), Ewan McGregor (3 ½ minutes), John Leguizamo (2 ½ minutes), Jim Broadbent (2 ½ minutes), and Richard Rexburg (2 ¾ minutes).
“The Writers” has two segments. Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce discuss their long-time friendship and working relationship in a 4 ¼-minute feature. Pearce then reads an early treatment of the film for 2 ½ minutes. Both are in 1080p.
“The Design” covers many important technical aspects of the movie, all in 1080p. Production designer/costume designer Catherine Martin talks about her concept for 6 ¾ minutes. The other technical artists go into other aspects of the production. Co-costume designer Angus Strathie talks for 2 ½ minutes. “The Evolution of the Intro” is discussed for 4 ¾ minutes. Background on the filming of the Green Fairy is a 4-minute piece. The Windmill miniature takes 2 ¼ minutes to display. Christian’s Garret is explored for 2 ½ minutes. The Main Hall takes 3 minutes of discussion time. The outside Garden of Earthly Delights is covered in 3 minutes. The Gothic Tower takes 1 ¾ minutes to describe.
“The Dance” section shows extended versions of the Can-Can sequence for 4 ¾ minutes, the Tango for 6 minutes, the Hindi for 3 ¾ minutes, and the Coup d’etat for 1 minute. Choreographer John O’Connell discusses the film’s dances and his work with the stars (especially Kidman) for 6 ¼ minutes. These are in 1080p.
“The Music” section features these featurettes: “The Music Journey (10 minutes), “The Love Medley Music (4 ½ minutes), an interview with Fatboy Slim (4 minutes), and three music videos: “Lady Marmalade’ (4 ½ minutes in 1080i), “Come What May” (4 ¾ minutes), and “One Day I’ll Fly Away” (4 minutes).
“The Cutting Room” features a 3 ¾-minute interview with Baz Luhrmann and Jill Bilcock who edited the film. We then see a previsualization of the opening for 4 ¾ minutes.
The “Toulouse Tonight” web series features co-star John Leguizamo sometimes in character and sometimes not talking about the movie and interviewing key personnel in ten brief episodes ranging from 1-2 ½ minutes in length. They are “Introduction,” “Can-Can,” “The Bohos,” “The Duke,” “Christian,” “The Extras,” “Satine,” “The Crew,” “A Day in the Life of Toulouse,” and “The End.”
“Around the World with Moulin Rouge!” is a 2 ½-minute vignette showing the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
There are two theatrical trailers. The American one runs 2 ½ minutes. The Japanese one runs 2 minutes. Both are in 1080i.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Moulin Rouge! brought the musical film back to the big screen in a big way. There is no other film that looks or sounds like it, and it’s likely to remain one of the most unique creations in 21st century cinema. The new Blu-ray release features magnificent picture and sound and exhaustive bonus features which fans will savor. Very highly recommended!