Sitting down to watch MOULIN ROUGE for the first time, I found the film to be mesmerizing and visually astounding. Sadly, the movie musical had been a dead art form for decades; however, thanks to MOULIN ROUGE, not only has the genre been resurrected, the very language of telling a story musically on film has been redefined. With MOULIN ROUGE, co-writer/director Baz Luhrmann creates a cinematic world of perfect artifice to tell a highly operatic story with contemporary pop music- all of which has been perfectly honed to the needs of his story. Although set at the turn of the 20th Century, MOULIN ROUGE is a movie whose incredible visual splendor could not be achieved without 21st Century cinematic techniques. Very little of what one sees on the screen in MOULIN ROUGE has anything to do with reality, thus the fairytale Paris of 1900 that the movie depicts was created through countless seamless layers of digital trickery.
MOULIN ROUGE tells the story of an aspiring writer named Christian (Ewan McGregor) who goes to Paris to discover his art amongst the bohemian atmosphere of the day. After a chance encounter with Toulouse Lautrec (John Leguizamo), Christian is taken to the Moulin Rouge, where he is to meet Satine (Nicole Kidman), the beautiful courtesan who is to star in a new musical extravaganza that he will write. Because of a mix up, Satine mistakes Christian for a potential backer for the Moulin Rougeís new musical production, and she works her feminine wiles on the naÔve writer, who instantly falls in love with her. Although Satineís feels equally enamored with Christian, their love affair is a rocky one. Coming between Satine and Christian is The Duke (Richard Roxburgh)- the potential backer of the Moulin Rougeís new production, who is willing to invest his money in the show, only if Satine becomes his exclusively. The cast of MOULIN ROUGE also features Jim Broadbent, Garry McDonald, Jacek Koman, Matthew Whittet and Kerry Walker.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made MOULIN ROUGE available on DVD in a wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for 16:9 displays. To say that the transfer is merely gorgeous is to do a complete disservice to this incredible visual extravaganza. The filmmakers have pushed, prodded and played with the image to create the movieís astonishing look and the THX certified transfer flawlessly handles everything that they could devise. Everything appears wonderfully crisp and highly detailed throughout the unspooling of the film. Colors are generally very lush and oftentimes they capture the flavor of old style Technicolor hues. Flesh tones are usually quite convincing, although Nicole Kidmanís impossibly white skin seems to radiate almost supernaturally. Blacks are dead on the money perfect, plus the whites are incredibly pure and stable. Contrast can be very smooth or incredibly harsh, depending on the mood the filmmakers are trying to create at a given moment. Shadow detail is usually quite excellent, except when the image is pushing the creative envelope. Digital compression artifacts are well concealed by dual layer authoring.
MOULIN ROUGE comes with 5.1 channel sound mixes in both the Dolby Digital and DTS flavors. The sound is almost as incredible as the image, although this isnít a particularly effect laden soundtrack. The musical number is where the soundtrack shines and by taking full advantage of the 5.1 channel encoding of these discrete digital sound formats. The music is incredibly vibrant, spacious and rendered with excellent fidelity in both formats. As one might expect, DTS has a bit of an edge over Dolby Digital due to its higher bit rate, but believe me, the standard bearer is no slouch and does not disappoint in the slightest. The bass channel is surprisingly forceful, and adds punch to the musical numbers. Dialogue is crisp and always completely understandable. A Spanish language track is also encoded onto the DVD, along with English subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the DVDís interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental features, which have been spread across the two discs that comprise this set. On disc one there is an interactive Behind The Red Velvet Curtain of the movie that allows one to access supplementary materials at various points in the film by pressing the enter button on their remote controls whenever the green fairy icon appears on the screen. Two running audio commentaries are also present on disc one. The first features director Baz Luhrmann, production designer and costumer Catherine Martin, and director of photography Don McAlpine, while the second is with Luhrmann again and writer Craig Pearce. Both commentaries look at the film in extensive detail and offer much to those interested in the making of the movie.
Disc two offers a wealth of material including a better than average featurette on The Making Of Moulin Rouge, as well as a program dedicated to The Stars of the film. This Story Is About offers a look at the development of the film's screenplay and the various stages it went through. The Cutting Room provides a look at various sequences that did not make it into the film, as well as alternate edits of other sequences that were ultimately abandoned. The Dance offers six of the film's dance numbers and shows them in their entirety, some of which can be viewed from multiple angels. The Music provides a detailed look at the various aspects of the music and the songs used in the film- look for a great live performance of the song Lady Marmalade by Christina Aguilerra, L'il Kim, Mya and Pink in this segment. The Design gives one a detailed look at the complexities of the film's production design, costumes and effects work. Finally, Marketing takes a look at various aspects of the film's publicity, including trailers, promotional reels and print materials. If MOULIN ROUGE is purchased as part of the Red Curtain Trilogy box set, then additional materials can be found on the bonus disc BEHIND THE RED CURTAIN, which offers an interactive documentary that contains hours of behind the scenes footage for this film as well as ROMEO + JULIET and STRICTLY BALLROOM.
In my humble estimation MOULIN ROUGE is a visual masterpiece of creative cinema art. The movie not only entertains- it mesmerizes the viewer. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has done a tremendous job with the DVD, creating a demonstration quality disc that shows off the capabilities of one home theater system. Coupled with the excellent supplemental section, MOULIN ROUGE is a must have DVD.
MOULIN ROUGE is available on DVD individually for $29.98 or along with ROMEO + JULIET and STRICTLY BALLROOM as part of the Red Curtain Trilogy box set for $69.98.
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