Luhrmann. Baz is the Australian expressionist auteur who is a style-plus director with a abbreviated filmography. Finding a style-plus director outside of my top 150 directors is rare- so that’s the main case for Baz plus he has a top 500 of all-time film (Moulin Rouge!). Taken as they’re released in real time, it has been a rough stretch for Luhrmann after Moulin Rouge! in 2001— just one archiveable film is the period since. However, his signature style and personal stamp is all over these three films – big, loud, bold—uncompromising visions.
Best film: Moulin Rouge! The greatest evidence of Luhrmann’s genius. He’s throwing 100 miles per hour the entire film—I remember seeing it in theater in 2001—I’d never seen anything like that— the speed at which it’s delivered, the bombastic visuals. A true triumph of editing and mise-en-scene.
total archiveable films: 3
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Moulin Rouge!)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (Moulin Rouge!)
most overrated: Baz doesn’t have any overrated or underrated films actually if you go by TSPDT. I mean technically Moulin Rouge! (#751 on the TSPDT consensus) is underrated but this is a very solid grade for a film that’s not yet 20 years in the rearview. If you click on the 1001-2000 link on TSPDT you’ll find Romeo + Juliet at #1469 which feels about right.
most underrated: I use TSPDT for my guide and there’s nothing here. If you were to go by metacritic almost all of it is underrated— Romeo has a 60, Moulin Rouge! has a 66, and Great Gatsby a 55.
gem I want to spotlight : Romeo + Juliet
- cinematic opulence- Baz would do it all better in 2001’s Moulin Rouge!, his masterpiece, but this is more than just a flawed rough draft—it’s a gorgeous and inspired precursor
- The opening is a jaw-dropper—Luhrmann showing off- jump cut heavy, freeze frames, during a sort of gun-play showdown he emphasize parts of the body in close-up (eyes, feet only) like a Leone film
- Flourishes of primary color, expressionistic lighting- fireworks—all Luhrmann trademarks. We have the occasional intentional high-speed overacting which is effective
- It’s a sizeable achievement for both Claire Danes and Leo (and whoever cast them)—the initial meeting with the fish bank is inspired—I”ll say it here—Leo is very fortunate to have met Scorsese and worked with him from 2012-2013 (so far) in five films but Leo could always act- he’s superb here
- Close-up heavy
- It’s a great take on the Bard—Luhrmann may not be Welles or Kurosawa but I’d take 5 more of these Shakespeare adaptations from him
- Like Moulin Rouge! We have pop music out of time/place and it’s effective—“Prince” here
- Excellent setting Harold Perrineau’s Mercutio death on sage with a Ferris Wheel and beach—set piece heaven
- I see costume influences from The Warriors and all around influence of Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange
- Blue neon around the crosses in set design and mise-en-scene— another highlight are the candles during here death- this is inspired expressionism that leads to the devastating finale
- Recommend – could see it moving higher with repeat viewings and time to appreciate the artistry at work
- Jump-cut heavy
- Leone- like close-ups: eyes, feet
- Use of modern pop music in period film
- Heavy use of loud colors
- An expressionist (the Melies moon in Moulin Rouge! is no coincidence)—gorgeously designed (and very designed) décor, costume-y costumes and mise-en-scene—he created his own world of lavishness
- Set pieces, the mansion in Gatsby, ferris wheel in Romeo, windmill in Moulin Rouge!
- Very low ASL (average shot length)—a montagist
- Rare to see a montagist who also makes films this beautiful
- Has bold openings that punch you in the face— he’s throwing the kitchen sink at you from an aesthetic standpoint right away
- Moulin Rouge!
- Romeo + Juliet
- The Great Gatsby
By year and grades
|1996- Romeo + Juliet||R|
|2001- Moulin Rouge!||MP|
|2013- The Great Gatsby||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
Moulin Rouge! is one of my favorite films ever, I’m not big on musicals but god what a stunning piece of cinema. The mediocre Broadway production (sorry) is proof of how much the musical relies on how cinematic it is through Baz’s brilliant vision. It recalls Ophuls, The Red Shoes, Fellini and brings in that extra contemporary rock/pop element that really takes it up a notch. The Roxanne sequence is particularly a marvel of operatic storytelling.
Also I will never understand how underrated Romeo + Juliet remains amongst critics and cinephiles. Perhaps because it’s a “teen movie” and people tend to conflate classic literature adaptation’s (especially Shakespeare) faithfulness with the actual film’s quality. You can’t ignore the excellent production design and ambitious editing.
Drake, have you seen Elvis yet and if so, what grade would you give it? I thought it was bananas, but in a good way. Love the site, keep up the good work
@Haider – I have, I thought it was strong. I am hoping to get to it again (along with a few others) before sort of finalizing a grade and putting up the 2022 page