*This post is dedicated to Nathaniel’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series.
How does one choose a favourite shot from Moulin Rouge!? It’s virtually impossible. Moulin Rouge! is the biggest visual spectacle in recent memory. Every frame is packed with so much detail, be it the colourful extravaganza of the costumes or the self-indulgent delights in the settings, there’s something to marvel at in every shot of this film.
Take a look at the shot above for instance. Making such a finely crafted and vibrant set from the mundane elements of a backstage washroom is no easy feat. The production designers of Moulin Rouge! though gave just as much attention to this room as they did to Satine’s boudoir, the aerial shots of Paris and the elephant, and the stage of the Moulin Rouge theatre in the film's finale. These colourful details are what make Moulin Rouge! the unique visual treat that it is.
But instead of facing the challenge of choosing from this long list of fantastic shots, I opted for what I remembered best from my first experience with the film several years ago. In the abundance of busy, colourful and vivid imagery that shapes Moulin Rouge! from start to finish, Luhrmann insists on close-ups or even extreme close-ups of his actors tens of times. Whether in the film’s noisiest moments of song and dance, or in its intense hide-and-seek conversational games between the Duke and others, or in Christian’s romantic serenades for Satine, or even the few moments of quietude, Luhrmann relies on the power of their gazes for expression. Seduction, love, jealousy, hatred, anger, illness, confusion, joy, surprise, passion, grief, despair... you name it. Everything can be read in their blue eyes.
In the end, I found it too difficult to even narrow these close-ups down to one favourite, so I settled for all the ones I loved.
P.S. On a side note, isn’t McGregor’s performance so underrated? At the time, it got no awards love – typical of awards bodies to ignore male romantic leads – but even now, nobody mentions it as one of the film’s strong suits. I’m happy for his comeback after The Ghost Writer. Hopefully he’ll get more roles of this magnitude.