Moulin Rouge! – Blu-ray Review

There’s something refreshing about revisiting Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge!, the 2001 high-energy musical starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. Maybe it’s the soundtrack consisting of beloved pop music karaoke standards or the fact that the movie, with its kinetic visual style and blindingly bright color palate, is the film musical for those with attention deficient disorder, but Luhrmann’s film is the kind of movie that fans of the genre will be hard pressed to not be in the mood for — regardless of how long it’s been since they last saw the movie.

The film takes the well-worn story of “boy meets girl” and gives it the equivalent of a purple nurple — injecting a syringe full of steroids directly into the film’s jugular. Becoming a super-soldier of film musicals, Moulin Rouge! is an almost-but-not-quite exhausting display of sounds, sights and performances larger-than-life enough could choke Robin Williams.

Nicole Kidman stars as Satine, a featured performer at the late 19th century French cabaret, the Moulin Rouge. Beautiful beyond belief and with a sizzle in her step hot enough to cook bacon, Satine catches the eye of any man she meets — including two suitors from very different backgrounds who will each play largely into the last days of her life.

Christian, played by Ewan McGregor, is a young English writer in search of freedom, beauty, truth and — above all — love. The Duke, on the other hand, is a sniveling cartoon of a character played by Richard Roxburgh. The character is possessive, cowardly and maybe just a little rapey.

The two find themselves at odds as they battle for the affections of Satine — their quest played out as the Moulin Rouge is converted into a theater in which Satine will star in a play written by Christian and financed by The Duke.

Supporting characters include Toulouse-Lautrec, a perpetually drunk bohemian dwarf played by John Leguizamo and Harold Zidler, the bulbous seemingly coked-out clown emcee of the Moulin Rouge played by Jim Broadbent.

Luhrmann, in a genius move, filled his musical with a soundtrack full of well-known and often-sung-in-the-shower pop songs from the 20th century. Don’t expect the scrubbed-down, sanitized cover songs of Glee, though. Luhrmann and his musical team take each of the songs (which include tunes from such artists as Elton John, David Bowie, KISS, U2 and Nat King Cole) and infuse them with a new lease on life. The songs are washed, fed into a food processor, made sweet love to by a chorus of rock and roll cherubs, and sprinkled with powdered sugar before being wonderfully sung by the film’s cast.

There’s something about the truth that makes it easier to believe when it is sung. If a man tells a woman he loves her in a movie you than need an hour and a half of this being proven to the audience. If a man sings Elton John’s “Your Song” to her, though, there is no additional proof needed. You buy the romance of Moulin Rouge! 120 percent thanks to Lurhmann’s choice to fill his music with the timeworn and much-loved songs of the world’s pop culture history.

Even if you were struck deaf by the sheer awesomeness of Moulin Rouge!, though, you would still be able to enjoy the movie thanks to amazing job Lurhmann does on the film’s visual front. A film defined by its composition, Lurhmann shows time and time again inside the Moulin Rouge he knows how to frame an image with a camera. The movie is a series of memorable images strung in a sequence of cap-gun bangs. Pap. Pap. Pap. The movie will riddle your smiling corpse with enough beauty to have you wishing there was enough energy left in your drained bones to immediately launch into a second viewing.

With a brand new transfer directly supervised by Lurhmann, Moulin Rouge! looks better than it ever has. Spit-shined and polished for HD, the movie gleams with its bright colors and rich detail. Every inch of every frame was given the deluxe treatment and it shows. Thankfully, there wasn’t a jarring noise-reduction process performed on the movie. Enough grain exists to remind you that you’re watching a movie shot on film.

Since this is a musical, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention (and sing to the heavens about) the film’s wonderful 5.1 DTS-HD audio track. The movie sounds wonderful with every layer of sound (and there are many) able to be distinguished from the other. Moulin Rouge! looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray. This is the format to watch it in — of that, there is no doubt.

“Spectacular, Spectacular” Picture-in-Picture Mode with Audio Commentary by director/co-writer Baz Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, director of photography Donald M. McAlpine and co-writer Craig Pearce —  An informative commentary track where the brain trust behind the film discuss it’s origins and execution. The picture-in-picture track includes behind-the-scenes footage, artwork, storyboards and other assorted tidbits as the commentary track plays. As an added bonus, an icon will occasional pop-up in the corner of the screen that, if clicked, will take you to a relevant selection from the disc’s special features.

A Word from Baz (1:58) — This feature is a short introduction to the film’s high-definition presentation from Baz Luhrmann.

A Creative Adventure (11:04) — A brief overview into the director’s visual style that also slightly serves as a career retrospective for the director.

The House of Iona (7:11) — A tour of the creative estate that Lurhmann shares with his frequent collaborators.

The Making of Moulin Rouge! (25:55) — A vintage (well, as vintage as something from 2001 can be) making-of doc from the original DVD release. It includes interviews with most of the notables from the film including cast and crew.

From the Bazmark Vault (40:38) — A hodgepodge collection of bits and pieces from the film’s production. Selections include alternate takes on scenes, rehearsal footage, screen tests and more. This is literally an everything and the kitchen sink kind of assortment.

The Stars (14:51) — Vintage interviews from Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh.

The Writers (6:38) — An interview with Baz Lurhmann and Craig Pearce is coupled with a clip of Pearce reading a treatment for the film.

The Design (30:17) — A collection of short featurettes about the film’s costuming and set design.

The Dance (21:37) — Extended versions of some of the dance scenes and an interview with the film’s cinematographer.

The Music (31:03) — Includes a mini-documentary about the film’s soundtrack, an interview with music supervisor Fatboy Slim and a few music videos where the movie’s songs are remixed into an “oh, so early ’00s” dance hall sound. Listening to the remixed songs actually made me kinda nostalgic for the late ’90s/early ’00s.

The Cutting Room (8:26) — Interviews with the editors are partnered up with some previsualizations from Luhrmann.

Tolouse Tonight Web-Series (21:25) — A web-series from around the film’s release featuring John Leguizamo in-character interviewing actors (sometimes also in character) and crew.

Marketing (6:30) — A short collection of trailers and press junket footage from the film’s release.

All the special features are in 1080p. Mostly. Since much of the footage was ported from the original special edition DVD release, the footage may not be in high-definition so its centered on the screen with a spiffy little frame.

Moulin Rouge! is a film that has a core audience that’s going to fall head-over-feet in love with the movie even more now that it’s beautifully presented in high definition on Blu-ray. There’s also a core group of movie fans that are going to be just as dismissive of the movie as they were upon its release. If you are a fan of musicals, MTV, pop songs or life itself, you probably are going to enjoy every sugary Saturday morning breakfast cereal minute of Moulin Rouge!. If you are a sad, bitter husk of a person who enjoys stepping on children’s toys, kicking puppies or leaving flaming bags of dog poop on the doorsteps of the elderly, you will probably dislike the movie. That’s OK, though, because to each their own. Fans of Moulin Rouge! get an amazing Blu-ray to cherish. Non-fans get to enjoy that little black rain cloud that follows them around throughout their days.

20th Century Fox presents Moulin Rouge! Directed by: Baz Luhrmann. Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, John Leguizamo, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh. Written by: Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce.. Running time: 128 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released on Blu-Ray: October 19, 2010.

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