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Postmodern film making: An analysis of Moulin Rouge Essay

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    With close mention to the selected movie ‘Moulin Rouge ‘ , go beyond the beds

    of spectacle and fiction to show the multiple and contradictory

    discourses to be found in postmodern movie devising, and what these tell us about

    nucleus world.

    Postmodernist film has frequently been criticised in academic circles for its “ill-famed medley esthesias, retro-obsessionisms, and empty simulations of simulations” [ 1 ] . The characteristic technique of citing earlier plants, every bit good as the eternal name-checking of popular civilization points and icons, is frequently seen as a deficiency of originality, creativeness, prowess, and hence a deficiency of worthiness. In this essay I shall analyze Baz Luhrman’sMoulin Rouge( 2001 ) and its relationship to thoughts of the postmodern, pulling comparings to the overtly postmodern plants of Quentin Tarantino as agencies of contextualisation, and comparing impressions of postmodernity with impressions of high construct film in an effort to understand what Luhrman calls the “high construct comedy”[ 2 ] of the movie, and how this effects the film’s nucleus world.

    If the most exciting and luring grade of postmodernist film is its engagement of the informed spectator through the reclaimation and referencing of popular civilization points and images, so it would so look sensible to propose a comparable relationship between postmodern film and the high construct movies whose most memorable and recognizable elementsarethese iconic images, images which are used non merely to market the movie but frequently to move as a simple microcosm for the movie as a whole.

    Much of postmodern film can be seen as an act of reclaimation, and of recontextualisation, and much of this reclaimation relies on the sorts of iconic images and characters The iconic images which are frequently used to drive and to market high construct movies ( those of the fierce foreigners inAlien Resurrection[Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997] or of Luke Skywalker exerting his visible radiation saber inStar Wars episodes 4, 5 and 6[George Lucas, 1977, 1980 and 1983 severally] ) are frequently the victims of this intertextual reclaimation – an illustration being the scene inWayne’s World( Penelope Spheeris, 1992 ) in which Robert Patrick reprises his function as the T-1000 fromExterminator 2: Judgement Day( James Cameron, 1991 ) . This scene relies upon the audience’s cognition of the Terminator movies for its comedy: as Mike Myers speeds off shouting from the T-1000, the audience is partly express joying at the saddle sore of Myers and carbon monoxide in puting Robert Patrick in this state of affairs, but to a far greater extent the comedy comes in the signifier of verification and comprehension – the immature viewing audiences pat each other on the dorsum in self-satisfied felicitation of the popular civilization cognition that their befuddled parents deficiency.

    This pat-on-the-back syndrome is behind much of the pleasance derived from postmodern film by its postmodern audience, and so by its younger, less informed viewing audiences who know little of postmodernism but a great trade about the importance of allowing popular civilization points in youth civilization ( the coolest childs are the 1s that can recognize the most mentions, and anyone who misses a mention is out of the cringle, like the child whose parents don’t let him to watch 18 certificate movies ) . Indeed to this younger audience a movie likePulp Fiction( Quentin Tarantino, 1994 ) may supply a similar sort of enjoyment that a high construct movie such asArmageddon( Michael Bay, 1998 ) might supply – iconic images, memorable soundtrack and a root in popular civilization. The older, more cinematically literate spectator consumes the movie in a different mode – they understand the name-checking and referencing, and can warrant their furiously self-indulgent back-patting through the complex narration and intelligent authorship. In this manner postmodern movies can be sold to the younger, less knowledgable, more waxy audience in the same manner as the high construct movie whilst still go throughing muster for the cinephile market.

    This relationship between postmodern film and high construct film will go of import to my analysis ofMoulin Rouge, and another component of postmodern film which is of great relevancy to an apprehension of the movie is the reclaimation of popular civilization icons, images and sounds. This procedure of reclaimation is surely non limited to popular film, but instead to any recognizable component, point, trade name or icon. Geoff Andrew provinces:

    “The eternal allusions and courts to cult heroes and famous persons, favorite films, Television shows, comic-strips and vocals, urban myths and trade name names, non merely establishes a direct line of contact and complicity with the audience which exists over and above the plot lines, but encourages viewing audiences to believe about [ the manager ] and his movies in the same obsessional way.”[ 3 ]

    Take for illustration the extended mentions to popular civilization points inPulp Fiction: there are many references of fast-food eating houses such as McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and Jack In The Box, references of Madonna,The Guns of Navarone( J. Lee Thompson, 1961 ) , the Television series Kung-Fu, Kool & A ; The Gang, Sprite, and about anything to make with 1950s pop civilization you could conceive of at Jack Rabbit Slim’s diner. But the film’s postmodern plausibleness does non halt at that place. The method of citing earlier plants through mimicking movie manner has been much criticised ( Anne Friedberg describes postmodernism as “texts that refer merely to texts and reliable experiences replaced by simulation” [ 4 ] ) , but remains a characteristic characteristic of postmodern film, and is made overtly clear by Tarantino on a figure of occasions: for illustration, the cryptic briefcase with the aureate freshness, borrowed from Robert Aldrich’sSnog Me Deadly( 1955 ) , or the referencing ofThe Texas Chainsaw Massacreas Butch selects his arm of retaliation, which are both presented really clearly as borrowed plants. Luhrman can besides be seen to be citing earlier plants through mimicking movie manners: the gap sequence in which Christian arrives into Paris on a train is evocative of the celebrated Auguste Lumiere movie of 1895, and as Christian and Satine kiss on the rooftop, the Moon above them is drawn precisely as Melies drew it in his 1890 movieMan On The Moon.

    InMoulin Rougeit is non high construct film or old cult television shows that are mature for looting, but instead all aspects of dad music and the musical genre, phase musicals, and the history of aureate epoch film. However, in his director’s commentary, Baz Luhrman speaks of the manner he constructed the gap movie to promote “an gap agreement with the audience… where they understand that it’s both high construct comedy and high construct tragedy”. The movie can be seen to stand for a melding of postmodernity with narrative elements of the high construct: the film’s success relies on a contract with the audience, that they discard their suspension of incredulity to take an active portion in a musical comic-tragedy based on the history of musical comedies and dad music. In the same manner that people would be attracted to see a Van Damme action movie, others would be attracted to see a Luhrman musical-comedy.

    Of class high construct tends to be characterised by selling, and peculiarly by the accent on merchandise distinction, or“extensive reproduction of cardinal images from the movie ( s ) in mass selling” [ 5 ] . So where a high construct movie might hold iconic images from the movie replicated on Jerseies, java mugs and bedcovers, like Sons,Moulin Rouge, and postmodern movie in general, takes iconic images, vocals and wordss from other movies and from dad music, and plasters them over their ain narration. When Ewan McGregor reels off celebrated love-based vocal wordss to depict his ideas on love, he’s utilizing the words as a booster would utilize a band’s logo – to mean all the intensions and past experiences that go with that creative person, and it is here that the comedy lies. The high construct merchandise distinction is used for the end of selling a merchandise. InMoulin Rouge, the postmodern dad civilization referencing is for the end of enjoyment – of selling the thought of the movie.

    So so we come to the thought of multiple discourses, and we can see the movie blossoming on three distinct and separate degrees. First, and most conspicuously, we have the movie as digest, exposing a sort of mix tape aesthetic with the film maker as DJ. This can be seen in our first scene at the Moulin Rouge, as Christian is shown around by Toulouse: in rapid fire Luhrman throws remixed versions of Lady Marmalade, Smells Like Teen Spirit and Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend at the audience, all coming shortly after McGregor’s amusing go throughing off of The Sound Of Music as a Bohemian anthem. In a similar manner to how Brecht’s disaffection consequence sought to interrupt down the barriers between witness and public presentation, this serves to interrupt the barriers between witness and film maker, because it is a manner which relies on shared cognition, a complicity of popular civilization ingestion, an consciousness of the director’s ain gustatory sensations. The manager is no longer a distant image shaper, but, with the audience’s willing forsaking of the suspension of incredulity, he becomes the joke-teller doling out the punch-lines in his “high construct comedy” , in the same manner a DJ constructs a relationship with his heartening crowd by the originality of his vocal choices. When Broadbent performs his amusing version of Like A Virgin the crowd are express joying at Broadbent’s public presentation, but besides at Luhrman’s pick of vocal. This is something new: the audience are express joying at a gag told by the manager.

    Second, we have the movie as love narrative. Happening alongside this bantering recontextualisation of dad music and musical film tradition, we are asked to emotionally link with the characters of Christian and Satine, to care about their journey, and to root for them to acquire together in the terminal. In this manner the movie conforms to the conventions of the love narrative, described by Philip Parker in the undermentioned manner:

    “The two chief supporters face countless barriers to really set uping a relationship, and recognizing they are in love with each other. One of the supporters usually believes they could be meant for each other early in the narrative, but the other resists this decision. However neither character truly develops through the narrative: it is simply ‘Will they or won’t they discover this is the individual for them, and when will they both end up gaining this? ’”[ 6 ]

    In truth, it takes a long clip before the movie asks us to care about Christian and Satine. For the first 40 proceedingss, their love narrative is merely another portion of the gag, and their duologues are characterised by dad music in-jokes with small touchable emotional nucleus: when Christian wins Satine over after she discovers his is non the Duke, it comes tied up in Luhrman’s station-hopping comedy, as he breaks into a reimagined rendering of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ . At this point the world of Christian and Satine’s love narrative is less outstanding than the world of McGregor, Kidman and Luhrman’s in-joke, and the audience’s shared enjoyment of it. However by the clip that the two lovers are forced to conceal their matter from the Duke during dry runs, we have long scenes with tonss but no vocals, and with duologue that does non mention to other past movies or vocals but merely progresses Christian and Satine’s love narrative. At this point the film’s world has shifted, and we are asked to suspend incredulity and prosecute emotionally with the characters – at least until the following vocal and dance mish-mash arrives.

    Third, we have the movie within a movie, or more exactly the drama within a movie. A typical trait of postmodern filmmaking is a self-reflexive consideration of the structural conventions of cinematic storytelling, as can be seen inThe Gallic Lieutenant’s Woman( Karel Reisz, 1981 ) andA Cock & A ; Bull Story( Michael Winterbottom, 2005 ) . Typically this is described as another device for promoting the audience to abandon the suspension of incredulity. InMoulin Rouge, a movie about musicals, the characters break into vocal about how good their musical is traveling to be. It’s a musical public presentation, about a musical, in a musical.

    In the film’s flood tide we watch the theatre audience watching the drama whilst besides at the same time watching the love trigon between Christian, the Duke and Satine play out. We see their confusion as the Duke’s flunky is flung onto the phase, dropping his gun, and they laugh, presuming this to be portion of the public presentation, presuming the ‘reality’ of their love narrative to be the show. When Christian comes up with the narration for their drama by parodying the narrative that they are taking portion in, the world of the movie becomes capable to notice merely like the narrations of the ‘40s and ‘50s musicals that Luhrman is citing throughout. By the clip we are shown the characters practising and so executing their drama, we are seeing a lampoon of a lampoon.

    But this barely seems to take away from the cumulative consequence of a movie so rooted in lampoon, so rooted in its ain mix tape aesthetic, or from the powers of its DJ manager. So so between these separate beds of discourse, where lies the nucleus world of the movie? What is the point of all this fiction? The nucleus world could be seen to be in the love narrative of Christian and Satine – surely on a narrative degree the movie is about two lovers, and the fact that in their narrative they are forced to execute in a staged version of their narrative does non take away from the effects of the archetypal narrative construction where male child meets girl and loses miss and poses the active inquiry ‘will they end up together? ’ , but simply alters our perceptual experience of it. But this love narrative feels slightly auxiliary, as if one time Luhrman had got into the concern of making characters to dwell his universe of aural nostalgia he had to happen a manner to warrant their being. I would reason that the film’s nucleus world lies in it’s forging of a touchable relationship between film maker and witness, in this postmodern reclaimation and recontextualisation. In Tarantino’s work his song choice is characteristic but still really much playing as soundtrack, and his popular civilization mentions, although ever-present, are sewn into the cloth of the narrative. His movies are recognisably Tarantino-esque – he is an auteur – but their narrations exist in their ain immersive worlds. Luhrman’s mix tape pop-song referencing plants on another degree. His “high construct comedy” comes in the signifier of his musical referencing, which takes topographic point in duologue, in word picture, in soundtrack and in mark. The comedy is his comedy, and as he says, our enjoyment of the movie relies on non on the playing out of narrative, but on this agreement with him.


    • Stranger Than Paradise,Geoff Andrew, Prion Books Limited, London 1998
    • A Cinema Without Wall, Timothy Corrigan, Routledge, London 1992
    • Window Shopping, Anne Friedberg, University of California Press, 1993
    • Art and Science of Screenwriting,Philip Parker, Intellect Books, Exeter 1998
    • High Concept,Justin Wyatt, University of Texas, 1994,


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