Saturday, October 15, 2011

Favorite Scenes: El Tango De Roxanne

So college is super busy which is why I haven't posted much of anything recently. I have a few series of posts going right now- my fun film facts, my "Coming Soon" posts, and my favorite film scores- so I thought I'd start a series about my favorite film scenes.

We all have our favorite movies and our favorite actors, but we also all have our favorite movie scenes. It might be an inspirational monologue or an amazing dance performance or a hilarious scene between two characters. These scenes are what make repeat viewings so enjoyable. I love to watch a movie knowing that my favorite scene is about to come up. The anticipation is what makes it fun.

So today's scene is "El Tango De Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge (2001).


First off, if you haven't seen Moulin Rouge and you want to see it there's one thing you should know: It's WEIRD, but in the best way possible. If you're not familiar with Baz Luhrmann's other films the first half an hour or so may have you thinking "What the hell am I watching?" but just keep going. Normality (or something close to it) sets in eventually. If the "Elephant Love Medley" scene doesn't make you smile from ear to ear, then this is probably not a movie you'll fall in love with. Well, now that my little disclaimer is over let's move on, shall we?

The Set-up: Set in 1899, Moulin Rouge tells the story of Christian (Ewan McGregor), a young, idealistic writer who falls in love with Satine (Nicole Kidman), a performer and prostitute at the Moulin Rouge in Paris who dreams of being an actress. The movie is an unconventional musical. There is only one original song in the film, the rest are pop songs that are tailored to fit into the story. For example, Christian sings "Your Song" by Elton John to Satine. And of course, in one of the greatest comedic scenes of modern times, Jim Broadbent and Richard Roxburgh perform Madonna's "Like a Virgin." In the film, there are forces greater than Satine and Christian that are forcing them apart. Satine is controlled by the Moulin Rouge's owner, who is, in turn, controlled by The Duke, the Moulin Rouge's main financial backer.



The Scene: In this scene, Satine is being forced to spend the night with The Duke and Christian is driven to near-insanity by jealousy. The performers at the Moulin Rouge, all of whom are aware of Christian and Satine's perilous relationship, are anxiously waiting around after the club has closed for the night and one man begins to tell the story of a man who fell in love with a prostitute. The song he sings is a mash-up of "Roxanne" by The Police and an Argentine tango. As he sings the other performers dance an aggressive tango. Christian, overcome by his jealousy, sets out to find Satine and The Duke. The scene then begins to cut between these three events: the tango, Christian, and Satine and The Duke. 


There are so many things I love about this sequence. Where to start?

The Music: The music is one of the main characters in this movie. "Roxanne" is completely appropriate for the scene, but the use of the epic Argentine tango makes it a hundred times more amazing. The singer's voice sounds as though he's crying and yelling at the same time. Christian's voice sounds so agonized. It is the polar opposite of how he sounds when he and Satine sing to each other when they're falling in love.

The Dance: I love storytelling through dance and Moulin Rouge has a number of scenes like this. The dance begins with just two dancers. As the dance progresses more men join in the dance and the woman is forcefully passed from man to man. As the intensity of the scene builds the number of couples multiplies. My favorite element of the dance is that the couples are not holding hands. Instead the men are holding the women by their wrists. It makes the dance so much more aggressive. 



The Editing: Moulin Rouge was nominated for Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards and you need only watch this scene to know why. The entire movie is so beautifully sculpted by the excellent editing. The two stand out scenes are "El Tango de Roxanne" and Christian's first trip to the Moulin Rouge with Toulouse. The editing of this sequence starts out slow, but as Christian slips into insanity and the Duke becomes violent with Satine the editing becomes more frantic. The last 90 seconds or so are SO intense, yet calculated. My favorite shots are the ones of Christian screaming in agony. This is by far my favorite role Ewan McGregor has ever played.

The EPIC-ness: Baz Luhrmann is one of my favorite directors because he is a genius when is comes to crafting unbelievably epic sequences. His notable films include Romeo + Juliet (1996) (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) and Australia (2008). If you've seen either of those films you know what I'm talking about. Mercutio's death in Romeo + Juliet and the cattle herding sequence in Australia are two of the best examples. "El Tango de Roxanne" is especially epic when you've watched the whole movie because it is so wildly different than the beginning of Christian and Satine's relationship. (This series of posts will definitely include the "Elephant Love Medley" scene in the near future.) 

After writing all this I now have the urge to go watch the entire movie for the, ummm, zillionth time.

2 comments:

  1. I love this scene! Fantastic movie, too. I agree that's it's weird but awesome

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  2. A shadowcast in Dallas performed this as a preshow. It took almost six months of rehearsal but, in the end you would have thought they were actors and actresses from the movie. This scene holds a lot for me because of that.

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