There are many angles I could take on Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! for Valentine’s Day. Its unapologetic pastiche of classic tragedy and romance. Its embrace of melodrama and sentimentality. Its larger-than-life lens on life and characters. The way Nicole Kidman fake orgasms.
I decided I could take on all of them in 300 words the same way the movie did in 3 minutes and 50 seconds.
In the Elephant Love Medley, the film takes about a dozen of the last century’s most famous love songs (of all genres and styles, from Sinatra’s “Love is a Many-Splendored Thing” to Bowie’s “Heroes”), and throws them together for Satine and Christian to talk-sing through and fawn over.
It’s a shameless display of the overpowering emotion that floods every frame of the musical, both in the endearing schmaltz of hearing McGregor belt Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” and the literal fireworks exploding inside the velvet-covered elephant room as he does it.
It’s a chase and a courtship culminating in a kiss. It’s actually a very important plot point in the narrative, as it literally sparks the romance between the two protagonists. It’s a love song to love songs, and an anthem to and for lovers.
It’s the perfect excerpt that encapsulates the themes and style of the movie. If you were not with the movie until this point, it loses you. If you were down for the ride, it wins you over.
I believe Moulin Rouge! is one of the most romantic movies of our time, for the shameless way it embodies the mindless, emotion-driven, fully passionate and yet slightly delirious aspect of romantic love. And it does so on top on an elephant. How wonderful life is when told like that, huh?
Happy Valentine’s Day!