If There Is Much In The Window There Should Be More In The Room

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moulin Rouge - El Tango de Roxanne


This is a song from the 2001 Baz Luhrman musical tragic comedy "Moulin Rouge", a fantastic movie about truth, beauty, freedom, and above all things, love. With much of its content and its execution, it obviously belongs in pop-culture but it is also, quite a literary film, inasmuch as many of the ideas that shape it have a long literary history, something that probably goes overlooked by most of Hollywood. Perhaps the juxtaposition of unconventional style, techniques, objectives, etc. with such a conventional story, is that which frees the audience’s attention to focus on these other things, as well as the other levels in the film.


This one starts off with a classical guitar picked by Jose Feliciano himself, builds in trembling violins, a faintly massaged piano, and a section of strings being picked. 

The rhythm of the tango is clear from the first, but when Jacek Koman, playing the narcoleptic Argentinian, stops his muttering and sings--practically growls--that first line like a grizzly baritone possessed by Lucifer, it is clear: this is not The Police you're listening to, and Sting is not making an appearance. Ewan McGregor also gets a chance to show off his pipes, hitting beautifully high notes that accent the top of his range. 

Just when you thought you'd heard it all, everyone comes in together, a chorus overlaying Ewan McGregor's passionate wide-open high notes, and Jacek Koman's rumbling voice driving underneath it. A bass drum reminiscent of When the Levee Breaks pounds furiously, bringing the song to a anxious conclusion--though all the characters have poured out their souls, nothing is resolved, and that is as it should be.


The tango sequence also serves as the film’s emotional climax, bringing together all the elements of the story and holding them in stark contrast to each other.  Satine’s world has been turned gray reflecting the emptiness she feels with the duke.  Christian’s world is full of reds and blacks showing his burning love tainted by jealousy.  The Argentine tells the real story, his gritty voice singing the theme, “With no trust there can be no love, jealousy will drive you mad.”

While this sequence serves to advance the plot as well, its main purpose is to express feeling and emotion, and to draw parallels with the sub-textual triangle of art, sex, and commerce.

* Geocities 

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