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By Michael Dequina | July 9, 2001

While doing promotion for the initial theatrical run of Moulin Rouge!, director Baz Luhrmann was already hard at work on the DVD edition of his groundbreaking revival of the movie musical–and all the time and effort he spent on it is clearly on display in this fully-loaded digital edition of one of last year’s most memorable films and one of the most striking and unique films in recent memory.
Like Fox’s groundbreaking Fight Club DVD edition, Moulin Rouge! is a two-disc set that comes in cardboard and plastic gatefold/slipcase packaging. The film proper is on the first disc, and it’s a gorgeous, sparkling transfer boasting equally impressive sound. While most of the supplemental materials are on the second disc, the commentaries are of course on this first one, and there are two tracks: one with Luhrmann, production designer Catherine Martin, and cinematographer Donald McAlpine; the other with Luhrmann and writing collaborator Craig Pearce. The first is interesting, if a bit on the overly techie side, and Luhrmann’s famous exuberance is curiously muted; he cuts a bit more loose with longtime chum Pearce on the second track, and in addition to their cameraderie, their discussion of the numerous abandoned plot threads and character directions make this a more engrossing listen. Better than the commentaries, though, is the third special feature on the first disc, called “Behind the Red Curtain.” With this option enabled, a Green Fairy icon appears at various junctures, and when clicked on, red curtains part to show little making-of segments related to the referring scene; the best segment is the first, which is an eye-opening deconstruction of the film’s literally layered (far more than one would expect) opening images.
Such effects-heavy sequences are explored in more depth on the second disc. The supplements commonly found on most DVDs, but here they’re given a bit of a tweak, with the exception of the token “The Making of Moulin Rouge!” documentary, which previously aired on pay cable. The film’s theatrical trailers in the U.S. and Japan are included as part of a larger section on the marketing of the film, which includes many promotional stills and various poster designs (one wonders just how many of the latter were actually printed up), as well as all the gorgeous photos featured in the making of book available in stores and a flashily assembled “international sizzle reel” that covers the global media frenzy surrounding the film leading up to its initial theatrical release. And instead of offering the de rigueur cast and crew bios and filmographies, individual interviews with the principals are included; while this material is obviously recycled from the EPK and some of it also overlaps with the making-of documentary, they are certainly more amusing to watch than pages of text.
Pages of text are included elsewhere on the disc, in a section called “This Story is About…” Here, the story’s evolution is traced through interviews with Luhrmann and Pearce and various permutations of the script; one entire first draft from December 1998 is included, and offered for comparison are the intros of rewrites done in April 1999 and June 2000. As a whole, all the material on this disc is conveniently organized into sections focusing in on individual aspects; other sections heretofore unmentioned include “The Cutting Room,” which features a few deleted scenes (but not a scrapped number set to Grace Jones’ “Slave to the Rhythm,” which is briefly glimpsed elsewhere on the disc) and alternate edits of existing scenes (including the disastrous and inscrutable first edit of the central “Come What May” number); the self-explanatory “The Music,” which includes music videos and a featurette that follows Luhrmann to score composer Craig Armstrong’s studio in Scotland; and the also-self-explanatory “The Design,” which covers sets, costumes, and visual effects. The best section on the disc is “The Dance,” where one can use DVD’s multiangle capability for isolated views of the different shots that made up the film’s hyperactively edited dance sequences; rehearsal footage and extended takes are also included. All in all, Moulin Rouge! fans will need to devote days to sift through all of the content here–and even more to find the discs’ numerous hidden features.
Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English DTS; English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; English subtitles; English closed captioning.

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