Moulin Rouge: The Editor Dances

Back in August of 2014, I made a blog post examining the “Mike Yanagita” scene in Fargo. It went pretty well, so I’ve decided to do it again but this time with Moulin Rouge

Execution: This scene is all about the execution. Many people complain about the way Moulin Rouge is edited. “Too many cuts” and “it’s all over the place,” but I see that as the point. Baz Luhrmann wants to keep the viewers on their feet, never letting up. In “el tango de Roxanne,” that strategy is used its best. The camera and editing jump from one person to another quickly and in strange directions in a way that makes you feel as if you are in the dance yourself, and it is that dance that conveys the message of the scene. More on that in “Purpose.”

As with other songs in Moulin Rouge, the particular scene’s song “Roxanne” was changed rhythmically and lyrically to fit the occasion. Out of the multitude of songs that Luhrmann messed around with, “El tango de Roxanne” came out the best. It would rival the original if the two were not so radically different.

Purpose: Christian (McGregor) is helplessly in love with Satine (Kidman), and “helplessly” should be stressed because Satine can’t get out of her uncomfortable relationship with “The Duke.” Satine is reluctantly prostituting herself for the sake of the Moulin Rouge, causing Christian’s feelings toward her and her situation to bottle up inside of him. Finally, his jealousy-induced anguish is liberated from his mind in a slowly building dance sequence of symbolic choreography and brilliantly orchestrated musical pieces. Every step of the tango stresses Christian’s emotions - unbound but contained, sweeping but complicated, strong but apprehensive - and because of the execution, the viewer is put in a pair of tango shoes of their own which in turn gets them inside Christian’s head and (for the lack of a better word) heart.

Something you might have not known: Luhrmann and his team used "Roxanne" and a little known tango called “Tanguera” by Mariano Mores to create “El tango de Roxanne.” “Tanguera” can be listened to below. Note: The part used in "El tango de Roxanne" starts at about the 1:17 mark in the video.