The Biz of Baz

Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge takes the search for art to the bank.

Indeed, as much as McGregor and Kidman labor exhaustively (singing! dancing! emoting!), the film's most transporting moments are ensemble pieces that play off Broadbent's sly pomposity, say, or Roxburgh's exaggerated priggishness, or the capering whine of John Leguizamo's Toulouse-Lautrec. The actors come together with the zapping song quotes, jerky jump cuts, arch gestures, and sparkling animation, and sometimes something startlingly delightful happens.

Quote whore: Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge
Quote whore: Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge

It's not just that these moments provide distraction, although I was happily distracted from the tediously meaningful love triangle. And it's not just that they're sugar to make the pill of a message go down. Somehow, occasionally, in the far margins of Luhrmann's stock plot ($20 a share and rising), cinema re-creates its irreverence, its magic. (As if for the very first time.) Don't let Murdoch or Luhrmann tell you different: The spirit of art is not some fragile, consumptive beauty. It is incorrigible. So pile on the exploding candles and candy sprinkles, director. Your cake is so stale it makes me sick--but oh, the frosting...

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