Legendary Hollywood director John Huston moved beyond the confines of gritty America with Moulin Rouge, a biopic of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec bathed in extravagant Technicolor and peppered with the can-can, France’s unofficial national dance. Around the turn of the century, taking a normal seat at the famed Moulin Rouge nightclub, Toulouse-Lautrec (played by Academy Award-winner José Ferrer) begins a sketch of the dancers working there—an inkling of his immense and off-kilter talent. Following the development of this remarkable artist over the next several years—while focusing on his poverty, loneliness, and occasional stabs at falling in love—Huston’s Hollywood version of this oft-told story manages to illuminate the processes of gentrification that marked both the Moulin Rouge’s creation and its subsequent enshrining into national lore as an unimpeachable institution. A deeply satisfying personal drama and fever dream of artistic creation, Moulin Rouge reminds us to look beyond the surface, lest we miss something monumental.
Appears in: Paris 1900