Film Some films I simply remember the date and place that I first saw them because of something else which happened in proximity. My first viewing of Moulin Rouge! was on the 10th September 2001 in a double bill with A Knight's Tale. It was in screen six at the Odeon on London Road and I wrote about it on this blog that evening (and also A Knight's Tale) I also remember the two films I watched the following day, Bullitt in the morning, then the first hour of Ever After, the rest of which I didn't see for six months after having turned it off in the middle for a toilet break something which didn't happen for ten minutes anyway because I'd happen to have the news channel tuned in on the VCR.
One of the repeated themes of this series is whether it's possible to uncouple your memories of seeing a film for the first time and the circumstances from your later ongoing appreciation of a film itself. This depends. Having waited for months I finally saw Luc Besson's Lucy during an otherwise quite boring day and I know that in the future I won't remember anything about that day but the film itself or even which day it is (for the future version of me that was the 18th March 2015 so I'll remember that now). This blog certainly helps the memory too, though it's worth noting I'd remember that I saw these films on these days without the younger version of me's record of the event.
In the case of Moulin Rouge!, no I haven't. I can't. The events of the following day are too significant, not just in and of themselves but also everything which resulted from them, the effects of which are still being felt depending on your socio-historical perspective. Each time I sit down to watch this mostly melancholy, often quite jolly musical, there is always a strange moment when I remember what it was like on September 10th, which in terms of events and context and the actual process of living as me wasn't that different, I wasn't directly affected, but the feeling of being pre-9/11. Which is silly. Or might be silly. I don't know.
But why Moulin Rouge! ahead of all the other films released that year? Perhaps because it's robust enough to move beyond that, for me to become lost in Luhrmann's day-glo post-modern interpretation of Paris, the way it, as is so often the case with the films in this list, and it is a list, presents images and sound and performance in ways which hadn't been seen before, reinventing what cinema is capable of. Contemporary critics couldn't interpret the kinetics of the editing, with Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian typical of the cry for the everything to slow down so that the viewer can see the scenery criticising "the great undifferentiated roar of colour and light and noise" as though they're bad things.
The great undifferentiated roar of colour and light and noise are the point. Moulin Rouge! along with the other "red curtain" films (with Strictly Ballroom and Romeo+Juliet before) and his concept album, Something for Everybody (which is a spin-off from his A Midsummer Night's Dream stage show) which as this interview from the same paper explains is about appropriating certain elements of Hindi filmmaking within a Western format, throwing a mess of shapes at the screen whilst at the same time engaging with deeper, heartfelt themes. If I'm being honest, I've never really seen a satisfactory explanation of "red curtain". It's more of an attitude than a definable cinematic language.
It's an odd coincidence that I saw it in conjunction with A Knight's Tale, both of which utilise the trick of shifting contemporary music into an anachronistic setting as a substitute for what would be the popular music of the actual period. They both successful at it in different ways, but it's the whole thing of Moulin Rouge!, whereas its just odd sectors of A Knight's Tale. In any case, the reason I love Moulin Rouge! is because it dares you to engage with such things, or not. To go with it, or not. Too many films are timid now, unafraid to strike out and fail and ultimately fail anyway because of this. I'll never know, but perhaps this would have been enough to keep it's initial viewing in the memory anyway, without the subsequent tragic events.