ANALYSIS: Media Watch - 'Moulin Rouge' gets a thumb's up fororiginality, but will it sell?

There's been a fair amount of talk about the new Nicole Kidman

film, Moulin Rouge, which opened in Los Angeles and New York theaters

this past weekend.



For starters, the Sunday edition of The New York Times (May 6) reported

the movie had high kicked its way into gaining 'a must-see buzz.' The

film is a tale of two lovers set against the backdrop of the famously

decadent and bohemian cabaret nightclub 'Moulin Rouge' in 1899

Paris.



Movie critics agree that it's unlike anything audiences have ever seen

before. More specifically, coverage of the 20th Century Fox movie was

more focused on how the director conveys the story than what the story

actually is.



The simplest way of explaining the movie is that it's a musical, but

there's more to it than that. The Ottawa Citizen (May 10) described

Moulin Rouge as 'both wildly inventive and slightly insane.' The Chicago

Tribune (May 9) called it 'voluptuous, daffy... an explosive pop

collage... as glitzy as you can get, a swoony valentine to show

biz.'



Media coverage suggested that perhaps journalists felt the best way to

prepare viewers for Moulin Rouge's in-your-face assault on your senses

is to refer them to one of Australian director Anthony 'Baz' Luhrmann's

previous films. They include 1996's Romeo and Juliet, which Time

magazine (May 14) described as having 'made Shakespeare play like a

psychedelic rap video.'



The choice of songs in the film also received frequent notice, as they

did for Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet. Media reports noted that the film

and soundtrack feature an eclectic mix of songs which the Los Angeles

Times (May 6) described as 'diverse... either exhilarating or chaotic,

depending on your taste.' Coverage also pointed out the anachronism of

having 20th century songs by Nirvana, Elton John, Madonna, and U2 in a

19th century period piece.



The advance coverage also frequently mentioned that Moulin Rouge was a

contender for the Cannes International Film Festival's prestigious Palm

d'Or award for best picture. A number of media outlets reported that the

film had secured the coveted 'lead-off' spot on the opening night of the

festival, while National Public Radio (May 9) called it 'the most

eagerly awaited film' of the festival.



Interest in the movie has been fueled by Kidman's personal life,

specifically her high-profile divorce from superstar Tom Cruise. The

Toronto Sun (May 9) even reported, 'The media circus surrounding the

Cruise-Kidman caper threatens to swamp interest in the film itself.'



A handful of reports commented that Moulin Rouge is attempting to revive

Hollywood interest in live-action musicals, which have been in disfavor

since 1978's Grease. The New York Daily News (May 6) wrote that Luhrmann

'admits that he set out deliberately to revitalize the musical.'



While Moulin Rouge may score points for originality, it remains to be

seen whether America will embrace Luhrmann's style. The New York Times

(May 6) admitted, 'Fox's marketing department would seem to have ... an

uphill battle.' And that was before E! Online (May 11) and others

described reviews from Cannes as 'lukewarm' and 'mixed.'



Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found

at www.carma.com



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