“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
Leanna here to introduce to my third Birthday Super Munch post. Despite this being one of my favorites movies, I had avoided watching it here for so long because I was afraid that a more critical eye might ruin the film for me (see (500) Days of Summer for the last time that happened). It didn’t feel right, however, to be writing this movie and food blog for four years now and not sit down and watch one of the first movies I remember really, truly, crying during. Anyone who has watched a movie with me knows that I love a movie that can get a good cry out of me (well, sometimes I hate the movie for it like La La Land but let’s not get into that). I remember having two main feelings the first time I watched Moulin Rouge!: first, I was officially Ewan McGregor’s biggest fan and second, I was not prepared to cry as much as I currently was. A movie that affects you that much becomes deeply personal and isn’t always easy to share. Thankfully, the two people I shared this viewing with are two of my most trusted favorites.
I didn’t want the food to be too over-the-top because the movie is frankly enough on its own. We started things off with a Lyonnaise salad. We couldn’t find any frisée lettuce so we settled for curly endive. We wanted the lettuce to be reminiscent of the ladies’ voluminous Can Can skirts in one of the first numbers in the film.
The salad is tossed in a vinaigrette and topped with crispy bacon and a poached egg. May I just say, we used our sous vide (fancy, I know) to poach our eggs and I will never poach them any other way. The consistency is perfect, getting you that Instagram-worthy yolk you know you want.
We followed up the salad with steak frites. We wanted something that went with a French dinner party scene that might have fit in the movie itself if Satine and the Duke had actually had dinner together as he’d requested. In this scene, Harold Zidler and the Duke perform “Like a Virgin” so we wanted a main course that was a little “rare.” Maybe that’s a stretch but it’s my birthday and I’ll eat steak if I want to. And this steak was quite good.
We closed out our food with raspberry palmiers. These cookies were surprisingly easy to make involving just some rolled out puff pastry, raspberry pureé, and we added sparkling sugar in an homage to Satine, the Sparkling Diamond of the Moulin Rouge. Truthfully, these cookies were good if a little basic, so I’m glad we added the raspberry not only for a touch of red but also some additional flavor.
Ben pulled out his book of cocktails, and of the many options we considered (the only real direction I gave him for picking out some options was that it had to have absinthe in it), we landed on the Smoke and Mirrors. The name is was sold me as it works as a reference to the movie and the long game that Christian and Satine play to hide their romance from the Duke. This cocktail was divine: you muddle mint leaves in simple syrup and mix Famous Grouse scotch, Laphroaig 10-year scotch, lime juice, and absinthe in a shaker. The mint was refreshing as always and the mix of scotches gave the cocktail a complex, peaty flavor that you could enjoy all night.
While not a parody, we felt the same rules still applied from our previous series.
Drink for every new song.
Drink when they turn it up to eleven (at your discretion, and this can happen more than once).
Drink when music brings people together.
Moulin Rouge! is one of those films that lets you know in the first 30 seconds that it will not have a happy ending. Unlike those other films, however, its first 30 minutes are filled with colorful musical numbers, outlandish acting (almost to a fault), and a love so palpable that you forget its all going to end in tears.
If you haven’t seen it, the story follows Christian (played by Ewan McGregor), a transplant into the Parisian Bohemian scene who quickly goes from never having been in love to falling head over heels for the star of the Moulin Rouge: Satine (played by Nicole Kidman). Their story and their love are told through some of the best songs in the film including “Elephant Love Medley,” “Your Song,” and “Come What May.” Ewan McGregor and the rest of the cast put on show-stopping performances, and his voice and smile are so infectious, I’m honestly surprised he isn’t better known for other musical performances.
Now, Ewan McGregor was good, but Nicole Kidman is doing the most. She was definitely given some of the most challenging stage directions, and she met them with a “Yes, and…” Her costumes are incredible, and she makes a fierce vision in more than one scene. True to her characters name, she is the shining diamond in this film.
As I’ve gotten older, some of the cinematic effects, dialogue, and theatrics started to wear on me, and it caused me to think more critically about if this film actually works as a film or if it would have been better left to the stage. We’ll withhold judgment until we see it on Broadway in 2019, and for now, the film still endures as one of my favorites. It’s not one that I’ll watch often, but it is one I’ll continue to watch again and again.
Andre: Spectacular spectacular! I wasn’t sure if I was going to like Moulin Rouge! But I did! The start was rough: it was fast, loud, campy, and altogether overwhelming, but I’m happy to say it improved significantly over the course of the film. The music numbers were impressive and entertaining, but we couldn’t help thinking that they would have been even better on stage. Time will tell!
Leanna: I can breathe again. I sure was nervous to watch this film after all these years. For the first time (ever, I think) I didn’t cry during the final moments, and I’m going to credit my nerves for that. Still, I had a really great time watching the film, and it definitely inspired me to listen to the soundtrack again following our watch. The part that wore on me the most was the use of Bollywood themes in the final number without many (or possibly any) actors of color. It rang pretty cringe-worthy and definitely impacted the final moments for me.
Ben: 80%. I remember initially watching Moulin Rouge! in high school at a friends house and was taken by the songs and the performances on what amounts to a play delivered through a TV screen. I wondered as I begin to understand the naiveté of my younger years if my second viewing would be different and if I could take something else away from a film that has largely dropped out of the critical conversation. This time, I found myself focusing on how the director presents the film as a play from the very beginning and how that allows for, and grounds, some of the wilder moments in the film. And, it is some of the wilder moments that ultimately gives the film its impact as well as its failures. Those moments, oddly enough, also seem neatly divided halfway through the film when it seems like everything starts to click, the music is at its most dramatic and powerful, and some of the awkward and uneven moments in the first 30 minutes are long forgotten. You as an audience member are given moments to breathe and can be taken away by the wonderful rendition of “Roxanne” that has been turned into a provocative broadway-like hit, or by the beauty of the final moments of the film. But, it is also in the final moments of the film where Baz Luhrmann’s “inspiration” from Bollywood movies is at its most precarious and culturally appropriative. And I don’t think he is making commentary on the lives and decisions of the Bohemians in France at the beginning of the 20th century. This is more just to be aware of what you are getting into as you are taken away by the incredible performances and some solidly crafted sets and music.
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