Badass Drama: Moulin Rouge!

Written by Baz Luhrmann

Satine (fancy prostitute) mistakes Christian (penniless writer) for a wealthy duke. She thinks he’s there for sex, he thinks he’s there for a poetry reading. Satine is a little confused, but doesn’t want to disappoint the “duke,” so she revels (to say the least) in his poetry.

Although the tango is my favorite scene from Moulin Rouge!, I think the concept here serves as a microcosm of the device that makes this movie work.

Every time I watch this scene with someone who hasn’t seen the movie, I feel awkward as Satine writhes around on the ground for an eternity. It reaches a point where I actually feel embarrassed for Nicole Kidman! However, all of this colorful, kinetic madness is an intentional writing device that serves as a revving engine dying to take off. Right at the moment where someone might deem the movie “over-the-top,” Christian belts out Elton John’s Your Song and the world falls reverently silent. The break peddle is released, our anxiety lifts, and the movie soars.

Any more of Satine’s lunacy, and the average viewer would lose interest. Any less, and Christian’s song would lose it’s spine-tingling impact.

Baz Luhrmann uses this technique several times throughout Moulin Rouge!, but the film as a whole is also structured this way. We’re introduced to the title brothel with wild editing, insane characters, a melodramatic plot, bitchin’ production design, rapid dialogue about truth, beauty, freedom and love, guns, seduction, rape, India, music, artists and absinth! But all falls silent at the movie’s climax… and the audience can breathe.


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