Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Curtain Rouge

This post is a contribution to the Hit Me With Your Best Shot series at The Film Experience.
Another mindless crime... behind the curtain...
 Part of Baz Lurhmann's 'Red Curtain' trilogy (the effervescent Strictly Ballroom and the searing William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet precede it), Moulin Rouge! is like the mama's boy to its director parent, the teacher's pet - it opens with a red curtain. And there are red curtains behind the red curtain. The film's melee and mishmash of songs, styles and the sheer speed of the editing make Moulin Rouge! such a dazzling spectacle that it's hard to know where, if anywhere, the show stops. But just as freedom, beauty, truth, and of course love are layered into the range of pop songs interpolated and performed, they are similarly hot-wired into every shaking skirt and wavering note.

The Red Curtain throughout: as Christian walks out on the
tango, the curtains separate that performance space.
Trying to take shortcuts (I'm pressed for time, and I watched the film not a month ago just because I wanted to), I did some quick thinking about the scenes that stick out in my memory, and this sequence is one of them. It's filmed with what seems like a hand-held camera, generally used these days to signify a greater 'realism', but here it seems to add instead the frisson of danger that proves to be a valuable warning: Zidler (Jim Broadbent) spots the careless lovers, Satine (Nicole Kidman) and Christian (Ewan McGregor), on the walkway above. 

I love the empty, clean lines on each side of this composition, framing the frantic, lusty mess of Kidman and McGregor in the centre.

Or this, focusing in on the beauty of the messy kiss (if you don't love this pair, you don't believe in love at all!) with the block of light grey in the centre separating them from the mess of the main auditorium.

My pick for best shot.
Perhaps Satine's final moment of happiness; this is just before Zidler appears, spooking her and telling her it has to end. Here, he's already metaphorically creeping up on her, the bottom left of the frame filled with darkness, a gilded kind of black; but she's lost in the stars in the red canopy above. They meet in the centre and on the diagonal, a singular moment where the rosy happiness and desire of the red crosses diagonally and horizontally with the black. And they meet on Satine, too: her dress is intoxicatingly dark to conflict with the thorough red of Kidman's hair (a key focus of the photography throughout). It's a darker colour scheme than is often typical of the movie, but a perfect reflection of Moulin Rouge!'s dark drama and its vibrant infatuations.


Janice said...

Terrific post, Dave; I love this choice of sequence (not one that leaps to mind when I think of far more "spectacular" imagery that the film offers, but a key moment indeed in the story. (I think these are the best - perhaps only really good - screencaps from this section I've seen.)

I would have to add, one of my favorite moments in the film is directly afterward, the attempt to lie and the change on Satine's face when Harold screams "I saw you together"; the similar change in her voice and the way she says "its just an's nothing."


vibrant infatuations...

love it. I don't say this to pat myself on the back but i really love the 'hit me with your best shot' series because i feel like doing it teaches me more about the movies...

as does reading fine pieces like this one.