Watching an Old Favorite with Brand New Eyes

Moulin Rouge

What are you doing tonight?

I missed Sinatra 100 tonight because I have Internet only. No TV. I can’t imagine telling my ten-year-old self that I would have to live even one day without TV. But rest easy child, there is the internet. The what? The glorious web of all means of distraction, entertainment, folly, nostalgia, news, and the dot-matrix of human consciousness.

So what did I do in lieu of Sinatra? I watched an old favorite, Moulin Rouge. I haven’t seen this film in at least eight years. Would I still enjoy it after all this time? Tastes change, don’t they? If you haven’t seen the movie, you will not get the rest of this post, and if you intend to watch it, the rest will spoil you. Please move on.

For those of you who may be fans of the film, I will go on. My perspective on the movie more than half a decade later is new. It’s because life has made me older than Satine (Nicole Kidman), and so far from Christian (Ewan McGregor) that, though I still love him, I feel sadder for his naïve state than I ever thought possible. He comes from a home like mine–parents who take care of you and things are okay, even if they have judgment. But when you go out into the world, you learn it is sad and not always what you dream it to be. Then there is poor Satine. This girl I always imagine brought into a harsh world from the time she could speak. She survives in a way that only she can and then she sees that things can be beautiful. She’s dreamed of this, but she was confused as to where it might come from. Rather than from love, she assumed, it would come from money. Maybe that is true in the sense of security, but then she finds it in a person who simply sees her as more than just an object. After that, she dies. Then there is Toulouse (John Leguizamo)–dwarfed by disease, talented and genius but forgotten as a clown. His tears remind me of life unrealized and loneliness. He has friends, but he has no family at home. Then Harold (Jim Broadbent). He’s in his 50s and pandering to a Duke, who may save his theater, a duke, who is so alone he feels he has to buy love. What is beauty, freedom, truth and love?

The ideals are what they want, but because they lack freedom, they really can’t have any of these—at least not in the environs of The Moulin Rouge. Harold is a dastardly person but tragic too. He uses Satine, hides her fatal illness so she can make money for him until her last breath is drawn, but what is his life but nothing at all? There is so much painful beauty in this movie for me, and to-be-honest, memories of being shocked that these actors could carry a tune keep it light. It’s also very funny at certain moments and has a great love story weaved throughout its creative soundtrack, not to mention Baz Luhrmann’s beautiful directing makes it complete eye-candy. The fourteen years since its release has not changed that.  Christian and Satine are beautifully tragic, and I think I will always enjoy watching this movie. Maybe I am a movie masochist, but the crying and the sad state of life and the truth it tells its audience will remain beautiful to me for a long time.