Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge!’

TAIL POP (2001)

Moulin Rouge! 20th Century Fox/Photofest
by Scott A. Jacobs

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bright, white light was shrouding my vision. The thundering applause from several thousand hands was engulfing my hearing. All I could feel was the thumping of my heart as the adrenalin was coursing through my veins like a tidal wave. It was in that moment, playing the role of Curly in Oklahoma! during my senior year in high school, that I knew I wanted to be an entertainer. Prior to that spectacular moment, I had been an avid video game player. My goal was to major in business, minor in Japanese and then get involved in the video game industry.

With only three semesters left in pursuing my BA in theatre and vocal performance, my love for performing was waning; however, my desire to stay within the entertainment industry was still strong. I loved being able to transport people out of their everyday lives into a world where they could forget all of their problems. I thought, “Maybe I’ll do something in the film industry.”

The head of the theatre department suggested finishing my BA degree and pursuing an MFA in film since most universities focus more on their masters students. Taking that into consideration, I signed up for an entry-level film course where I got to watch movies, discuss them and read a textbook that covered all aspects of filmmaking. A friend mentioned to me that I had to see Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! At that point, I was consuming anything and everything that I could.

A cathartic explosion of emotion would be the best way of describing how I felt after watching this film. I couldn’t stop talking about it with my friend, who knew more about the filmmaking process than I did at the time. He told me that the things I was gravitating toward the most all dealt with the visual effects and the editing.

Beneath the colorful complexities of the production, Moulin Rouge! tells a very simple story about love and all the trials and tribulations that come with it. Christian (Ewan McGregor) is a budding writer who moves to Paris to pursue a writing career amidst the Bohemian revolution. Christian meets Satine (Nicole Kidman), an actress at the Moulin Rouge nightclub, and quickly falls in love with her. A duke agrees to invest in the struggling nightclub — but only if Satine is his and his alone. A love triangle ensues between Satine, the duke and Christian. Ultimately, Satine has to make the difficult choice between following her dreams of being a real actress or following her heart.

While there are so many brilliantly choreographed scenes, the one that has always stuck with me is the can-can dance. The sequence itself is merely 65 seconds long or 1,560 frames. Within that short amount of time, there are 85 edits. This ratio, for lack of a better word, is insane. Through the masterfully executed editing by Jill Bilcock, ACE, not once are viewers discombobulated to the point that they aren’t able to keep track of what is happening. They can be completely consumed by the visuals and feel as if they’ve just stepped foot into the Moulin Rouge.

A cathartic explosion of emotion would be the best way of describing how I felt after watching this film. I couldn’t stop talking about it with my friend, who knew more about the filmmaking process than I did at the time. He told me that the things I was gravitating toward the most all dealt with the visual effects and the editing. At this point, I was hooked. I began my research on what was entailed in being an editor and a visual effects artist. While I loved visual effects, editing was definitely more up my alley. To discover that a job existed that bridged the gap between my love for playing video games and my fairly new love for theatre was astounding to me.

Of course, Moulin Rouge! could not have come alive without the visionary director Luhrmann, who incorporated so much into this film from the Hollywood undertones to the stylings of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec — who was the original painter to decorate the actual Moulin Rouge and was played by underrated actor John Leguizamo.

Moulin Rouge! was the first musical in 10 years (since Beauty and the Beast) to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination and the first in 16 years (since A Chorus Line) to get a well-deserved Best Editing nomination. Although it did not win either, it breathed new life into the genre and opened the doors for the modern-day musical. Little did I know that this film — and the work of Bilcock — would end up opening the doors for me as well. It inspired me to delve deeper into the art of film editing to a level I never knew existed.

Several years later, I found myself in Los Angeles pursuing my MFA in Film Editing from the American Film Institute. Since graduating in 2007, I have been fortunate enough to be constantly working in editorial and doing what I love. Along the way, I also found my “Satine” who inspires me everyday and shows me that the greatest thing in life is to love and be loved in return.

About Scott A. Jacobs 1 Article
Scott A. Jacobs works as an assistant editor on network TV shows as well as several studio feature films. He hopes to one day sit alongside the great film editors who have come before him and inspire others as they have inspired him. Contact him at fixitinpost15@gmail.com.

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