Truth, beauty, freedom, but above all, love
FILM REVIEWs

Truth, beauty, freedom, but above all, love

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Moulin Rouge

Amazon Prime et al

(PG-13)

Grade: A

Let’s sing away the coronavirus blues! This week it’s time to stream musicals to lift our stay-at-home spirits.

We’ll start in Paris, home of the famous Cabaret, Moulin Rouge, where immodest ladies show all they can-can.

I’ve been to a Paris cabaret. My date? My 14-year-old daughter, Kat.

All parents have snapshots in their hearts of special moments with their children – ones that hug us for a lifetime.

I have many.

But one I remember most was when daughter and I spent a night in Paris. We bought tickets to a cabaret for dinner and a show. I chose the Lido, not the Moulin Rouge.

The show was filled with flying legs, bold colors and topless dancers. Daughter, 14, was mesmerized.

Forever after, she and I have referred to the Lido dancers as the Topless Wonders.

When we got home, Mom raised an eyebrow or two, but in an act of kindness, chose to let us have our memory without a critique involving dubious parental judgment. And, yes, Kat might have sipped an adult beverage.

“Moulin Rouge,” released in 2001, is a rousing dance-like-no-one’s-watching musical made by Baz Luhrmann, who has an impeccable eye for color, and perfect pitch for sound. The score is a veritable jukebox of popular music, often strung together like popcorn. Want to hear all the hits of the past 10 years? Luhrmann will do that in one song!

Let’s take the iconic Elephant Love Medley, for example. Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor are falling in love by singing to one another. And in that 5:26 minute swoon, 10 songs are quilted together from The Beatles, Wing, David Bowie, Phil Collins, Kiss, Elton John, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Joe Cocker, U2, and Whitney Houston. Let’s see, it’s 130-minutes long. Do the math: 26 clips each featuring 10 artists. That’s 260 artists! Woohoo, hip-hop my darlin.’

Alas, Luhrmann inserts a few silent moments that pause the soundtrack. But not for long! Somebody put a nickel in the jukebox and let those records spin. “Nickel” is a real song, by the way. And, yes, once upon a great great grandparent ago, a nickel would play a song.

Under the music flows La Boheme, and a few years prior, the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice – loosely. All viewers really need to know is that the poor boy lusts for the most beautiful lady in the kingdom, and he’s just about win her love forever when fate intervenes and she dies in his arms.

Love torn from the arms of a swooning man just as he prepared to couple up for eternity. Instead, she beats him to eternity.

Lovely classic story, of the tragic type operas love.

The love story is affecting. Both Nicole Kidman, the beautiful courtesan, and Ewan McGregor, the poor poet, sing with soulful sadness. Hearing Kidman sing “Fly Away” transports me to a heavenly place.

I also love hearing Christian sing “Come What May,” where he confesses his love for Satine. The song morphs into duet at mid-song, as Satine reciprocates his longing. They will love each other until their “dying day.” She’s right about her pledge. He’s not.

Yes, I can be hopelessly romantic. If you object, go read some depressing news stories instead. No, don’t. I love that you’re with me. Stay. Please.

But no one really loves “Moulin Rouge” just for the love story. We love it for the music, the dance and the colorful swirling twirling skirts.

This is one of those love-it-or-hate-it movies that will be dismissed with a pshaw by some, but sung as a jukebox hymn by the rest of us. I might have raised my hands and sang along during the showing at the Gaslight. It was dark. No one saw me.

So, let’s conclude with the impossible question that has always intrigued me. What is music? How does it transport us to places that words alone can’t reach? Seems like the chords and beat must be connecting to the rhythm of our heart and the flow of life through our body. When we’re in the grasp of a tune that connects, we are helpless to resist.

They say the ears are the last to quit as the body dies. Music still reaches the soul when the rest of the body is fading. Sue hadn’t spoken for days until a young girl played a violin at her bedside. Suddenly she said “Fabulous!” and fell back into quietness.

Each of us has different notes which, like a password, unlock something inside us.

Hearing Judy sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and hearing Kidman sing “Fly Away” both take me someplace special.

You’re more than welcome to come fly away with me if you wish.

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