Hanging with Toulouse at the Moulin Rouge
I finally got around to opening, then to actually watching, my DVD of John Huston's excellent 1952 biopic of Toulouse-Lautrec, Moulin Rouge. I'd seen the film two or three times dating back to the 1980's, when I taped a cable showing of it, but it never looked this good. The broadcast I taped presented the film in a somewhat fuzzy/blurry manner, and I thought this had to do with color experimentation; however, the DVD offers the film in all its sharp, Technicolored, brilliant glory, allowing me for the first time to see the movie as Huston intended.
I was surprised how much I enjoyed watching the film anew, and I was drawn into the story again immediately. The legendary painter had a sad life and- understandably- was frequently bitter, but Huston and star Jose Ferrer (portraying Toulouse) do a fine job in creating a multi-dimensional portrait of the artist. Throughout its two-hour running time the movie holds one's interest; in particular, the Can-Can scenes at the Moulin Rouge are knockouts. Colette Marchand is impressive as the young streetwalker Toulouse falls for, while a gorgeous Zsa Zsa Gabor is well cast (and lively) as Jane Arvil- she seems to be having a lot of fun and, although her 'singing' is often poorly dubbed, she gets to introduce the movie's beautiful theme song. Using different lyrics (I like the "It's April Again" lyrics in the film better) this song became a huge 1953 hit for Percy Faith & His Orchestra, racking up 10 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts. The production is top notch in all areas, resulting in critical acclaim, box-office success, and seven Academy Award nominations (including ones for Huston, Ferrer, and Marchand, and one for Best Picture) and two wins (for Best Costume Design (color) and for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color)). Whether or not you're a fan of Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film of the same name (which is not a remake), if you're looking for a good, colorful (in the most literal sense) drama, you should enjoy time spent at Huston's Rouge.