Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Moulin Rouge!

I've participated in this series just once before (for Bring It On), but I've been sadly inactive since, despite several of my favourite films being covered. I knew I couldn't miss this one, though, because of my great passion for Moulin Rouge!.

I won't go on before I show what my favourite shot is, since I know I hate to be kept waiting:

One of the things that fascinates me most about Moulin Rouge! is its sense of intertextuality. I mean, I get caught up in the mad pacing and singing and just general energy of it all just like anyone else, but what always keeps the movie near the front of my mind is how it relates to other musicals.

I had an evening a few months back where I watched four or five of my favourite musicals in a day, and I realised at the end of Moulin Rouge! that its climax bore a remarkable resemblance to my favourite musical:

I suppose it's possible that this could have been a complete accident, but I give Luhrmann a lot more credit for this film than a lot of people (Oscar's Best Director snub, especially amongst all the film's other love, still stings), and I've been taught to assume that nothing is accidental. It seems even more unlikely when you see the other visual references Luhrmann makes to the classic '50s musical throughout his film.

Both of the films feature lovers, with the plot revolving around their romance. That's typical of the musical genre, of course, with the history of the backstage musical stretching back long before Singin' in the Rain. I'm more interested in the more nuanced connections which you can map from the first film onto the second. They both feature one lover deceiving another for their own good - Don convincing Kathy to sing for Lina, and Satine lying to Christian to make him leave and save his life. I could talk about the fascinating gender reversal that Moulin Rouge! gives us, since I think one of that film's crowning achievements is the confounding of sexual and gender-based norms. I get the feeling nobody wants to hear about that, though.

In the end, I do love all of Moulin Rouge!'s flashy shots, its hyper-kinetic editing and the constant experimentation with colour and other techniques. This shot has stuck with me, though. It may not be the most showy, although I do still love it from an aesthetic standpoint. It ties two of my favourite musicals (and films overall) to each other inextricably, and I love it for that. I definitely don't think Moulin Rouge! is Singin' in the Rain's equal, but both of them have brought me a lot of joy since I found them, and I love them for that.