Pop-music gets a history lesson

By Nicole Kobie

Moulin Rouge is captivating.

The decadent, richly-coloured musical is visually and aurally breathtaking. Action and movement–from face-high ruffled kicks to quick-stepping dancers–constantly fill the screen while favourite rearranged popular songs shock and delight viewers. However there is something more surprising, more captivating.

Ewan McGregor can sing.

Director Baz Luhrmann creates an opulent stage for McGregor and co-star Nicole Kidman, never allowing the story to become more important than how he tells it. Moulin Rouge is a simple fable of inconvenient love dressed in overwhelming finery.

McGregor is Christian, a Brit who embarks to Paris’ most sinful club, the Moulin Rouge, to be a child of the revolution in the summer of 1899, also known as the summer of love. Sound a bit like travelling to San Fransisco in 1969? The comparisons to hippiedom are hard to miss.

Living in the strangely colourful underworld of Paris, Christian falls in love with Satine, the courtesan played by Kidman. Circumstances are not in their favour, leading to a predictably super-tragic ending.

The story of "star-crossed" lovers is hardly new. The dialogue, plot and development are all predictable. However, they aren’t the focus–it’s all about the music.

Christian is a writer and singer. All his best poetry and bright ideas are directly channeled from our past, as opposed to his. He quotes the Beatles and sings a variety of cheesy love songs to win Satine over. He is not, however, the only one to emote using future hit singles. Everyone expresses themselves through song here, and it works well. Somehow, the Police’s "Roxanne" says more about the twisted situation than any set of dialogue could, and the mix of Christina Aguilera’s latest single spliced with the cast chanting Nirvana is more interesting than any period music could ever be.

The modern songs offer the only familiarity for the audience. The characters are thinly developed, and the story a weak soap opera. The music draws you in, allowing for some identification with the emotions expressed.

The fun in Moulin Rouge , however, is not in deep thought, but in sitting back and enjoying the trip.

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