Published on July 5, 2016
Moulin Rouge! (/ˌmuːlæn ˈruːʒ/, from French: [mulɛ̃ ˈʁuʒ]) is a 2001 Australian–American pseudo-pastiche jukebox musical film directed, produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann. It tells the story of a young Scottish poet/writer, Christian (Ewan McGregor), who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan Satine (Nicole Kidman). It uses the musical setting of the Montmartre Quarter of Paris, France.
At the 74th Academy Awards, the film was nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, winning two: for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It was the first musical nominated for Best Picture in 10 years, following Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1991).
In the year 1900, a British writer suffering from depression named Christian (Ewan McGregor) begins writing on his typewriter (“Nature Boy”). He explains how one year earlier, he moved to the Montmartre district of Paris to become a writer among members of the area’s Bohemian movement. He soon encounters that his neighbours are a loose troupe of performers led by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo). Toulouse-Lautrec and the others ask for Christian’s help, and his writing skills allow them to finish their proposed show, “Spectacular Spectacular”, that they wish to sell to the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent). The group arrives at the Moulin Rouge as Zidler and his “Diamond Dog Dancers” perform for the audience (“Lady Marmalade/Zidler’s Rap (Can Can)/Smells Like Teen Spirit”). Toulouse arranges for Christian to see Satine (Nicole Kidman), the star courtesan, in her private quarters to present the work, unaware that Zidler is promising Satine to the wealthy and unscrupulous Duke of Monroth (Richard Roxburgh), a potential investor in the cabaret (“Sparkling Diamonds” medley).
Satine mistakes Christian for the Duke, and dances with him before retiring to her private chamber with him to discuss things privately (“Rhythm of the Night”), but soon learns he is just a writer (“Your Song”). The Duke interrupts them; Christian and Satine claim they were practicing lines for “Spectacular Spectacular”. With Zidler’s help, Toulouse and the rest of the troupe pitch the show to the Duke with an improvised plot about an evil maharajah attempting to woo an Indian courtesan who loves a poor sitar player (“The Pitch (Spectacular Spectacular)”). The Duke backs the show on the condition that only he may see Satine. Satine contemplates on Christian and her longing to leave the Moulin Rouge to become “a real actress” (“One Day I’ll Fly Away”). Christian goes back to Satine to convince her that they should be together, she eventually falls for him (“Elephant Love Medley”). As the cabaret is converted to a theater, Christian and Satine continue seeing each other under the pretense of rehearsing Satine’s lines. The Duke becomes suspicious of their frequent meetings and warns Zidler that he may stop financing the show; Zidler arranges for Satine to dine with the Duke that evening, but she falls ill from tuberculosis (“Górecki”). Zidler makes excuses to the Duke, claiming that Satine has gone to confession (“Like a Virgin”). Zidler learns that Satine does not have long to live. Satine tells Christian that their relationship endangers the show, but he counters by writing a secret love song to affirm their love (“Come What May”).
As the Duke watches Christian rehearsing with Satine, Nini, a jealous performer, points out that the play is a metaphor for Christian, Satine and the Duke. Enraged, the Duke demands the ending be changed with the courtesan choosing the maharajah; Satine offers to spend the night with the Duke to keep the original ending. At the Duke’s quarters, Satine sees Christian on the streets below, and realizes she cannot sleep with the Duke. (“El Tango de Roxanne: “Roxanne/Tanguera”). The Duke attempts to rape her, but is saved by Le Chocolat, one of the cabaret dancers. Reunited with Christian, he urges her to run away with him. The Duke tells Zidler he will have Christian killed if Satine is not his. Zidler reiterates this warning to Satine, but when she refuses to return, he finally informs her she is dying (“A Fool to Believe”). Zidler tells Satine that to save Christian’s life, she has to tell him that she will be staying with the Duke and she doesn’t love him (“The Show Must Go On”). Christian tries following her, but is denied entry to the Moulin Rouge, and becomes depressed, even though Toulouse insists that Satine does love him.
The night of the show, Christian sneaks into the Moulin Rouge, intending to pay Satine to return his love just as the Duke paid for her (“Hindi Sad Diamonds”). He catches Satine before she steps on stage and demands she tell him she does not love him. Suddenly they find themselves in the spotlight; Zidler convinces the audience that Christian is the sitar player in disguise. Christian denounces Satine and walks off the stage. From the rafters, Toulouse cries out, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return”, spurring Satine to sing the song Christian wrote to express their love. Christian returns to the stage, joining her in the song and reaffirming his love for her. The Duke orders his bodyguard to kill Christian, but is thwarted, while the Duke’s own attempt is stopped by Zidler. The Duke storms out of the cabaret as Christian and Satine complete their song (“Come What May (Reprise)”, “Coup d’État (Finale)”).
After the curtain closes, Satine succumbs to tuberculosis. Before she dies, Christian and Satine affirm their love and she tells him to write their story. A year later the Moulin Rouge has closed down, and Christian finishes writing the tale of his love for Satine, a “love that will live forever” (“Nature Boy (Reprise)”).
Nicole Kidman as Satine
Ewan McGregor as Christian
Jim Broadbent as Harold Zidler
Richard Roxburgh as The Duke of Monroth
John Leguizamo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
Jacek Koman as The Narcoleptic Argentinean
Caroline O’Connor as Nini Legs-in-the-Air
Lara Mulcahy as Môme Fromage
Garry McDonald as The Doctor
Matthew Whittet as Satie
Keith Robinson as Le Pétomane
Natalie Mendoza as China Doll
Christine Anu as Arabia
David Wenham as Audrey
Kiruna Stamell as La Petite Princesse
Deobia Oparei as Le Chocolat
Kylie Minogue as The Green Fairy
Ozzy Osbourne as The Green Fairy’s laugh
Peter Whitford as The Stage Manager