Baz Lurhmann describes ‘Moulin Rouge’ as ‘audience participation cinema’. Analyse the techniques he uses to remind ‘us we are watching a movie’

Baz Lurhmann describes ‘Moulin Rouge’ as ‘audience participation cinema’. With close reference to the opening of the film analyse the techniques he uses to remind ‘us we are watching a movie’

From the opening of the film, we can see that Baz Lurhmann uses several techniques such as music, camera angles, set design, costume and lighting, to help create the feeling that we are ‘watching a movie’. He creates this feeling from the idea of making everything unrealistic and stylised, it shows that it could not possibly be real life, therefore reminds ‘us we are watching a movie’. Baz has a wild imagination which is captured in Moulin Rouge; he shows this through techniques such as characterisation, editing, and colour.

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Even from the very beginning, with the conductor, we can see that the film is unreal. The conductor has theatrical movements which are totally over the top; this does show and remind us that ‘we are watching a movie’. Also the setting of having the large, heavy, red curtain and gold plated frame still gives the ideas of being fantasy and unreal.

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When we are introduced to Christian, Baz Lurhmann uses several camera techniques to create the stylised effect. He does this when Christian is writing the story; he has a dolly following the text that has been written. It cuts to his face crying and then cuts back to the typewriter. This is emotional; it shows how he is reacting to telling the story of him being in love. The audience are already struck by this and feel as though they already know the character. This helps the film to be “audience participation cinema”.

Whilst Christian is still telling us the beginning of the story and typing, there are cuts of inside Moulin Rouge; this is effective because it simply reminds us that we are watching a movie. Inside the Moulin Rouge, there are bright colours (saturated colour) and vibrant movements but all this is shown through slow motion editing. Outside the Moulin Rouge there is desaturated colour. To end this section of the film, the camera zooms into the words that the character is typing, like a fade or dissolve.

When Christian is typing about one year ago, when he first came to Paris, the camera zooms out, rapidly over Paris from his room, and then zooms in to the train station where he is standing. This keeps the audience reminded that the ‘we are watching a movie’ because it zooms so rapidly that it’s unreal and almost like a dream.

There is also a part where is he walking up the to the hillside town of Montmarte the ‘village of sin’. As he walks up there the scenery that he is ‘walking through’ is changing. This is obviously unreal and therefore has the same effect of “watching a movie”.

When we first meet the Bohemians’ we see different techniques being used. We see Baz Lurhmann using costumes, colour, set design and camera angles in this section. The Bohemians all have different costumes; all their costumes are made of several layers of clothes, with any colour and material. This gives them an idea of them being below people such as Zidler who wears suits. There is an unreal design about them; this reminds us we are “watching a movie”

There is a mid shot, in which we can see all the characters involved with the scene including the unconscious argentine. When they are deciding the lyrics to the song, the camera cuts to all the characters, creates the idea of confusion and hysteria – so many people talking at the same time. We see a close up of Christians face when he bursts into song about the hills being alive with the sound of music. This is very illusory and still reminds us that we are watching a movie.

When we first see the Moulin rouge, we see vibrant colours, saturated colours; these stand out well and help illuminate the idea of Moulin Rouge being a theatre – loud, over the top, energetic and alive. The lights and colours are vivid, glitzy and jazzy. Again it has the unreal idea attached to it. Baz Lurhmann didn’t want anything to be normal; he wanted wild, lively movements and shots. This again seems unreal and therefore has the stylised approach. Inside the Moulin Rouge it’s lively and upbeat, contrast to outside which is dull and boring. Inside there’s fast dancing and lots of actions and over the top dance moves.

All the characters in Moulin Rouge all have individual identities – dancers, courtesans. They all have their own stage personality and their own costume. This is overwhelming because all the women are over dressed, and area all playing to what the men want. The idea of having all individual costumes to fit the ‘stage’ character is effective.

We also see characters, inside the night club, of boxers, mermaids, and an even woman with a snake, this is all very unreal and shows that it is too unreal and therefore the audience must be “watching a movie”.

There is a special effect on one section where Zidler does the flips all the way through entrance of the Moulin Rouge to the actual stage area. This is very unreal we can see being super imposed onto the screen but yet it strikes the audience and reminds them about the movie.

When Satine retreats from the ceiling, the club turns black. This is to create tension of when she does arrive. Also for lighting the bits of shiny silver sparkle. Satine had an original costume compared to the other girls in the club. Satine wore a diamond outfit – tailed jacket with fishnet tights and a bowler hat. Her lipstick was bright red and it was very feminine. I think that Baz Lurhmann was trying to get across that she was as famous as Marilyn Monroe because she wore that ‘look’ too (bus stop look). The swing which she sat on even had diamonds, shows that she better off than the other Moulin Rouge dancers. All the dancers were known as ‘diamond dogs’ whereas she was known as ‘the sparkling diamond’. The audience feels they have to watch her because partly of what she is wearing but also because the camera does. And the camera follows her around because she is the centre of attention.

Harold Zidler was another colourful character; he wore a bright red jacket, with big boots and white shirts etc. almost like Father Christmas. He had jolly, fluffy hair in forms of a beard and moustache too. The moustache was curled up at the ends; this gave his character more livelihood about him. He looked as though he was the ring master of the circus, in some ways he was.

All the costumes were over the top and they all have the unreal attitude with them. This is because they were all original and exaggerated, therefore unreal and stylised. This will remind the audience that what they are watching could not be real life hence it is a movie.

The elephant is the centre of the courtyard just outside MR. it’s where Satine lives- exclusive and powerful. Its interior is all to do with India – ideas generate for spectacular spectacular. The colours inside the elephant are blues, yellows and reds.

Music in the Moulin Rouge was very important. There was always music in the background or the characters were singing a song. Throughout the film music was used in different ways, it created different atmospheres. When Christian first came to Paris and he was talking about never being in love, the music created a comedy effect. Also inside the Moulin Rouge, the music was very upbeat, the can can, it had to be to go with the costumes and dancing, and was a contrast to the music anywhere else in the film. Baz Lurhmann also used different contexts of music, some songs were modern and some were fairly old.

The lyrics and songs tell the story of the Moulin Rouge. This is effective because it’s different. People don’t go around telling stories of their life in song, so this to the audience would remind them that they “were watching a movie”.

Throughout the film there were different genres of music being used. There was hip hop when the dancers all sang Lady Marmalade, rock when Zidler sang the Show must go on, and even pop such as Your Song and Material Girl. All the songs used in the film kept the audience involved and they felt as though they could sing along, which is the audience participating – “audience participation cinema”.

All the techniques that Baz Lurhmann used created the unreal atmosphere that he wanted to create to remind the audience that they were “watching a movie”. All the elements in each technique was exactly what Baz Lurhmann wanted, when put together all the elements and techniques created an emotional, contrasting film which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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