- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Baz Luhrmann's over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, sentimental Strictly Ballroom became an unexpected international hit in the mid-'90s, integrating pop tunes and a Rocky formula with the world of ballroom dancing.. Then he mixed up time periods and cultural references for the Leonardo DiCaprio edition of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. These hyperstylish productions were, it seems, just the warm-up. Luhrmann's new film
Plunging us into a half-historical, half-fantasy Paris in 1899, Luhrmann establishes a fairy-tale tone right off the bat. We're introduced to a talented but penniless poet named Christian (Ewan McGregor), a celebrity showgirl named Satine (Nicole Kidman), the greedy and melodramatic manager of the Moulin Rouge nightclub, and a wicked lustful investor known as "The Duke." Christian's talent for song is discovered by the artist Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), who urges him to compose lyrics for a new play that will star Satine and promote the Bohemian subculture creed of "freedom, beauty, truth and love." Christian accepts, and is sent before Satine to have his lyrics approved. It's love at first sight … at least for Christian. He has a nasty rival for Satine's heart—the Duke. Will Satine choose the way of true love, and respond to Christian's poetic overtures? Or will she choose the road to fame and fortune, selling herself to the loathsome Duke, who will then finance the play?
Most critics are bewildered and impressed by
In other religious media, the bawdy humor and sexual nature of many scenes became a point of contention.
But Focus on the Family's Lindy Beam defends these onscreen shenanigans. "What else can be expected from a show set in a cabaret/brothel? No attempt is made to soften the showgirls' job description; they make their living by getting men in bed. The clothing is scant, the dancing is seductive, and everyone is a commodity. Which is what makes Christian unique. When he and Satine first meet, he's not even thinking about sex." She argues that the film emphasizes the difference between sex and true love. She writes, "the film's definition of real love hits the bullseye. [Christian] is willing to commit to her forever. If Satine can be pulled from her old lifestyle, Christian's is definitely the kind of love that is powerful enough to do it." She does, however, protest the film's teenage marketing target as too young an audience for such sexy stuff.
Holly McClure at The Dove Foundation was apparently too bewildered to see any meaning at all. She describes
I, for one, don't fulfill McClure's prophecy. I'm not a guy known for liking musicals, but I laughed and cheered when I saw the film over the weekend. The high-spirited imagination, the surprising appearances of familiar songs (by Elton John, Madonna, David Bowie, U2, and Sting, to name a few), and the fearless romanticism swept me away. I'd agree with Elliott's claims, and say this film marks career highs for McGregor, Kidman, Broadbent, and Luhrmann himself. I got right back in line to take my wife and our friends! All of us, both guys and dolls, loved it. And for the record, at both screenings I saw women of all ages laughing, crying, and carried away on the movie's melodramatic tide.
Like the "silly love songs" it celebrates,
In my review at Looking Closer, I suggest that there's a deeper truth speaking to us in the story, whether the filmmakers know it or not. It's interesting that in the Moulin Rouge nightclub's labyrinth of the botched and the debauched, it is "Christian" love that perseveres and passes through fire. Christian redeems the unfaithful beloved. What a marvelous picture of how a follower of Christ should live and love—in but not of the world. And what a beautiful metaphor of God's relentless love, pursuing us in spite of our fickle hearts and our unfaithfulness. We all yearn to be loved the way Christian loves Satine, and thus the songs speak to us. But can we ourselves love so wholeheartedly?from Film Forum, 06/28/01
At Hollywood Jesus, David Bruce now offers a generously in-depth look at the symbolism of the popular musical
Dan Buck nominates
He admits, "There is little that will make this movie a favorite among most Christians. The story takes place around a 1900s brothel and its themes are a rehash of old ideas of Beauty, Freedom, Truth, and Love being victorious over Greed, Malice, Power, and Hatred. Yet, Baz Luhrman has unleashed his imagination. The result is a visual cacophony of sights and sounds that flood the viewer." Our first reaction is to gasp for air, but then we start to fall in love. With the characters, with the music and with the imaginative powerhouse that lies behind it all."from Film Forum, 03/14/02
Were you offended by the debauchery on display in the Oscar-nominated