It has been two decades since the release of Baz Luhrmann’s show-stopping film Moulin Rouge!- so how does it hold up 20 years later?
2001 was a fairly successful year for film, in particular romantic comedies, with the releases of iconic flicks such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, Amelie, Legally Blonde and The Princess Diaries. Obviously, a lot has changed since that time and some of these films have themes that are questionable for viewers today (I’m looking at you, Bridget), but Moulin Rouge! stood out from the typical easy-watch romance and could still be greatly enjoyed by new and revisiting audiences.
I think this is due to its self-aware absurdity that is typical of Luhrmann’s style. His other films Romeo and Juliet and The Great Gatsby also have an absurd, surreal quality where the colours are vivid, the camera movements are fast, and the soundtrack is often remixes of different pop songs which creates a sensory overload of sorts.
Moulin Rouge! follows Christian, an aspiring writer, who spends a night partying at the most famous club in Paris- The Moulin Rouge. Amongst the chaos of dancers, drinks, and glamour he meets Satine, the club’s star performer and courtesan, and the film follows their whirlwind love story.
Unlike Luhrmann’s other films, it’s a musical and Nicole Kidman and Ewan Mcgregor’s voices, while not West-End level, are impressive and add an element of charm to the songs they cover- including Elton John, Madonna, Christina Aguilera and more. Like most romances, there are some cheesy moments, but with a balance of comedy and tragedy the film can still be taken seriously and enjoyed by many different people.
A factor that has made the film so memorable is the vibrant 18/1900s aesthetic. It has a maximalist style for sure, that makes every scene beautiful to watch and instantly recognisable. Hues of deep red, gold and black decorate the sets, including Satine’s iconic room situated inside of a huge elephant sculpture.
The dancers wear feathered cabaret costumes with big ruffled skirts that look wonderful on screen when they dance the Can-Can. Moulin Rouge! was definitely deserving of the Academy Awards it won for “best costume design” and “best art direction/set decoration” and this quality has ensured that in 2021 the film is still visually impressive.
Overall, I think that Moulin Rouge! is worth watching today and has become a must-see for any romance fans out there. The film is chaotic enough in its design that previous viewers will notice features that they had missed before, and the emotional story is brilliantly acted by the whole cast, making the film hold up for new viewers.
If you haven’t seen Moulin Rouge! already, this is a sign to give it a watch and judge for yourself if it has lasted through time.
By Helen Barber
Feature image: Moviestore/Shutterstock/Vulture