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Moulin Rouge Movie Review

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This is the movie that started me on a lifelong love affair with Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901), and once again, it was John Huston who ignited the affair, just as he had with Sam Spade and The Maltese Falcon on his very first assignment as a young director. Moulin Rouge was a nominee the year that Cecil B. De Mille's The Greatest Show on Earth won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1952, even though Huston's re-creation of the Paris art scene of the 1890s is a far superior film. Jose Ferrer was also nominated for the physically painful role of the aristocratic Toulouse-Lautrec, who captured the gaiety of Montmartre night life, while moving through life with a sad, resigned dignity. Huston got a wonderful performance out of Colette Marchand, playing Marie Charlet, the young model who tormented Toulouse-Lautrec more out of personal desperation than any real malice. However, Toulouse-Lautrec's friendship with Myriamme Hayem (Suzanne Flon) seems to owe more to Pierre la Mure's novel than it does to reality. Certainly, some of the other colorful characters here played far more authentic roles in the artist's life. There really was a La Goulue (Katherine Kath), of course; her real name was Louise Weber (1870–1929), and Toulouse-Lautrec's posters of the dancer will long outlive them both. Jane Avril (1868–1943) survived a difficult childhood to become one of the great entertainers of her day. Zsa Zsa Gabor delivers one of her better performances as the charming dancer immortalized in Toulouse-Lautrec's posters. Toulouse-Lautrec's friend Maurice Joyant (1864–1930, played by Lee Montague) wrote one of the first biographies of the artist. Like Toulouse-Lautrec, Huston was well born, and both artists shared a deep passion for the truth plus a strong determination to establish their own reputations quite separate and apart from the circumstances of their birth. Both succeeded, although Toulouse-Lautrec undoubtedly paid the higher price. Huston lovingly re-creates the Moulin Rouge in all its garish splendor, paying meticulous attention to the Technicolor process, trying to get every detail just right. (Moulin Rouge did win the Oscar for art direction and set decoration that year.) It's a sad, exquisite film of an irretrievably vanished era that still has the power to lure us into its spell, if only in our dreams.

1952 119m/C Jose Ferrer, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Colette Marchand, Katherine Kath, Michael Balfour, Eric Pohlmann, Suzanne Flon, Claude Nollier, Muriel Smith, Mary Clare, Walter Crisham, Harold Kasket, Jim Gerald, George Lannes, Lee Montague, Maureen Swanson, Tutte Lemkow, Jill Bennett, Theodore Bikel; D: John Huston; W: John Huston, Anthony Veiller; C: Oswald Morris. Academy Awards ‘52: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Color), Best Costume Design (Color); Nominations: Academy Awards ‘52: Best Actor (Ferrer), Best Director (Huston), Best Film Editing, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress (Marchand). VHS, LV

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