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Moulin Rouge: A Review on a 2001 Musical Masterpiece

By: Annalee Deabel

Released on May 16th, 2001, the musical “Moulin Rouge” is a romantic masterpiece set in the enchanting backdrop of Paris in 1900. The narrative unfolds around Satine, a young singer employed at the Moulin Rouge, who finds herself entangled in a passionate affair with Christian, a poet. Complications arise as the proprietor of the Moulin Rouge commits Satine to the Duke, who, in turn, offers financial support to transform the establishment into a theater. In an attempt to sway the Duke, Christian pens a tale titled “Spectacular Spectacular.” The Duke, intrigued, agrees to fund the transformation but imposes a condition – he demands both Satine and control of the Moulin Rouge. What follows is a riveting drama as Christian and the Duke vie for Satine’s affections, all while she harbors a grave secret.

Moulin Rouge! Movie Poster (2001) ---20th century studios: A man in a stylish tuxedo gazes at a woman in an elegant decollete dress with a pistol hat adorned with pearls. They stand in a timeless pose, with the woman looking out beyond the image while the man's attention is fixed on her. In their hands, they delicately hold a frame shaped like a postal stamp, featuring the name "Moulin Rouge" in a captivating AD design, creating a sense of allure and sophistication.

Moulin Rouge! Movie Poster,, 14 December, 2023

The musical’s backdrop and musical compositions are nothing short of breathtaking. A standout moment is Christian’s rendition of the Elephant Love Medley in Satine’s room, cleverly set inside a resplendent golden elephant. The vibrant colors within her room, coupled with the intricate detailing of the elephant, create a visually stunning scene. The dazzling costumes worn by the singers and dancers, particularly in the final numbers like Roxanne, seamlessly complement the setting, portraying each character’s personality with finesse. The choreography, detailed and fast-paced, imbues each step and hand movement with underlying meanings that align with the thematic essence of each song. Moulin Rouge! masterfully blends elements of old Hollywood and classic musical genres with a modern twist, exemplified by scenes like Satine singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” atop a swing high above the crowd. Nicole Kidman, who voices Satine, injects the song with edge and strength, incorporating stretched notes, voice inflections, and sudden stops to captivate the audience. The emotional pinnacle arrives with Ewan McGregor’s and Nicole Kidman’s rendition of “Come What May” at the film’s conclusion, delivering a performance that resonates profoundly. While some may argue that Moulin Rouge!’s plot is basic—a tale of a poor poet and a wealthy duke vying for Satine’s love—the film’s dramatic flair, oscillating between realism and dreamlike sequences, elevates it beyond the need for a complex narrative structure.

Scene from Moulin Rouge! (Elephant Love Medley) In a captivating scene, a man and a woman stand face to face, their connection evident in the intimate exchange of glances. Behind them, a theater backdrop unfolds like a moving drop, adorned with heart-shaped decorations, symbolizing the depth of love between them. The theatrical element adds a touch of romance and drama to the image, enhancing the visual narrative of their intertwined story.

Scene from Moulin Rouge! (Elephant Love Medley song),, 14 December 2023

In essence, Moulin Rouge! comes highly recommended for enthusiasts of musicals or those seeking a captivating plot. The unique narrative perspective, presented through the eyes of the character Christian as he chronicles the entire story as a book about his love for Christine and his experiences at the Moulin Rouge, adds an intriguing layer. Discovering that the movie unfolds through Christian’s lens provides the audience with a deeper investment in the narrative, offering context that enhances the overall viewing experience.

Come What May song finale from Moulin Rouge! cutscene 
In a tender moment frozen in time, a woman and a man stand face to face, their closeness palpable. The woman gently rests both hands on the man's shoulders, while the man reciprocates by holding her sides with both hands. The image captures the intimacy and connection between them, conveying a sense of warmth and shared emotions in their embrace.

Scene from Moulin Rouge! (Come What May song Finale),

Annalee Deabel is a junior at Indiana University Bloomington. She is majoring in anthropology and minoring in folklore. She is excited about working at IU Media Services again next year and participating in IU Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology’s cataloging practica program.

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