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Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce


Baz Luhrmann, Craig Pearce


Baz Luhrmann












Nicole Kidman:


Ewan McGregor:


Jim Broadbent:


John Leguizamo:


Richard Roxburgh:



Moulin Rouge
Australia 2001

Directed by Baz Luhrmann in 2001, Moulin Rouge is simply “Spectacular”.
“Spectacular”, from the title of the comedy that is a mainstay in the film plot. From the first to the last scene it is a continuous, rolling and sensual succession of colours, sounds, effects, lights and much more. From this extravagant mix and fast editing, we have a new type of musical film that uses the potential of songs to the most.
The film is set in Bohemian Paris in the Nineteenth Century and tells the love story between Christian, a young talented writer and poet, and Satine, the star of Moulin Rouge. The couple is surrounded by the absinthe green world of the artistic congregation of the dwarf Toulouse-Lautrec (he is about to write the Bohemian show of the century), by Zidler’s can-can dancers and the wicked Duke, obviously desirous of pretty Satine.
The adaptation of the dialogues of Moulin Rouge definitely caused some problems hard to solve. Although the soundtrack is not original, but uses famous songs from pop and rock culture, the film is considered a musical film. The fans of the songs tweaked by Luhrmann can only enjoy the bizarre combinations created, both in terms of the songs chosen and in terms of the medleys created. Obviously such choices are not casual, but are very important to tell the story of the film. There are many references to titles and words of songs and the combinations between dialogues full of quotes and the songs create cross-references of great effect in the original, definitely hard to give the idea of in the dubbed version.
The choice was not to dub the songs, that are very famous and contemporary, they would have clashed in fact for an Italian audience if they were dubbed, since Italians are used to hearing them in their original version. This was definitely the only possible choice to make, but the losses in the text of the film are evident.
A part from the fact that the characters talk and sing with different voices, what is lost are the cross-references between the dialogues and the songs. I chose some examples that I think explain the problem.
Christian talks to Satine using lines from Your Song. The spoken parts are dubbed, nullifying the possibility to recognize the text.
Christian: «It's a little bit funny»
Satine: «What?»
Christian: «This feeling inside. I'm not one of those who can easily hide».
Christian: «I don't have much money but boy if I did, I'd buy a big house where we both could live.
If I were a sculptor, but then again, no. Or a man who makes potions in a traveling show».
Christian: «D’accordo! E’ davvero un po’ strano…»
Satine: «Cosa?»
Christian: «Quello che sento dentro. Non sono uno che sa celare, lo sento»
Christian: «Io, io, non ho molto denaro, ma se ne avessi comprerei una grande casa per noi due se potessi. Se fossi uno scultore, no! E’ più esaltante un creatore di pozioni in un circo ambulante!»
After this, Christian starts singing and completes the lines of the song. Obviously the pun on the quotes is lost in the translation. There was a good attempt to recreate the rhymes and consonances of the original, creating a text that seems a rather dull poem and for this reason, is funny. For sure, when the main character sings Your song, the audience recognizes it, however the audience is not aware of the fact that Christian’s last words are from the first strophe of the song written by Elton John.
The same problem occurs in other parts of the film. For instance, the main character defines love through some famous song titles. Unfortunately, this does not pass in the Italian version.
Christian: «Love? Above all things, I believe in love! Love is like oxygen! Love is a manysplendored thing, love, lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love!»
Christian: «Amore. Io credo soprattutto nell’amore! L’amore è come l’ossigeno, l’amore è una cosa meravigliosa, ci innalza verso il cielo, tutto quello che ci serve è amore!».
The only quote that is maintained is Love is a many-splendored thing, since it is also the title of the film in which the song is sung. These losses cannot be avoided, unfortunately, due to the film itself.
The same happens during a conversation between Zidler and the Duke, in which the song quoted is Like a virgin.
Zidler: «She said you make her feel like a virgin».
The Duke: «Virgin? »
Zidler: «You know, touched for the very first time».
Zidler: «Si sente un’ amorevole sposina, dice che la fate sentire una… vergine».
Duca: «Vergine? »
Zidler: «Esatto, una vergine toccata per la prima volta».
I’d say that on the whole, what was possible to do was done, given the nature of the film.  The parts that are sung are subtitled, at least making the content comprehensible. However, this does not fill in for the loss of the spirit of the film.
As regards the voice actors and their acting, I think that the decision to choose Massimiliano Manfredi to dub Christian (Ewan Mcgregor) was a good idea. His acting is very close to Mcgregor’s and in some parts he adds something to the ironic lines of the character thanks to a very funny tone of voice.
On the other hand, I do not agree so much on Roberta Pellini’s voice for Satine. Nicole Kidman characterizes Satine with a voice that is rather shrill, that sometimes seems the voice of a child and for this reason, the wishing and mischievous, cunning actress is an exciting combination of Lolita and femme fatale. Pellini has a lower and warmer voice, with lower tones than normal speech, that brings to extremes with shrill tones the parts in which Satine plays the part of a dog (in which she actually howls and growls). In general though, the acting is quite convincing because Satine’s character comes out in all her sweetness and aggressiveness even though in a more underlined way compared to the original.
Luciano De Ambrosis (Zidler- Jim Broadbent) was also good, giving the idea of the ruddy performer of Moulin Rouge, as was Marco Guadagno, who plays the dwarf with a pronunciation defect, Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo). Marco Mete plays the Duke and does not seem to talk so nasally and screechingly as in the original, but manages to characterize the character anyway. On the whole, the voices are appropriate and in proportion among each other, as goes for the acting.
I believe that Moulin Rouge is a film that cannot leave people indifferent as regards the visual and auditory stimulus that it offers, even if one does not enjoy it. Unfortunately the dubbing does lack of the brilliant linguistic component and quotes of the original that continuously wink to music and words, making the original version a lot more enjoyable.


[original review in Italian by aavv]


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