Art Cinema: Painters on Screen

Moulin Rouge

John HustonUSA / UK119 minutes1952PGColourEnglish

May 13
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    Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, John Huston's Moulin Rouge may play fast and loose with the facts of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's life, but its lavish recreation of the Parisian demimonde during the belle époque (Huston reportedly instructed his cinematographer to render the film's images to match the palette of the artist's paintings) deservedly won the film Oscars for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. Moulin Rouge opens with a high-kicking can-can number, establishing the seedy, raucous environs which Toulouse-Lautrec captured so unsparingly in his posters, prints, and paintings. Jose Ferrer plays the self-destructive artist as a bitter, volatile, and lonely figure, venting his despair over his physical deformity by drowning in booze and (some argue) fashioning mean-spirited portraits of the denizens of Montmartre. (In a feat of double casting, Ferrer also portrays Toulouse-Lautrec's father.) "A sheer delight to watch ... a Technicolor tour-de-force" (British Film Institute).