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Beauty in the Movies: Moulin Rouge!

After visiting Paris last week and walking past the infamous nightclub on a daily basis I haven’t been able to get this film out of my head. Add that to the suggestion for Beauty in the Movies by Sarah a couple of weeks ago in the comments and I knew I had to feature Baz Luhrmann’s uniquely beautiful movie-musical Moulin Rouge! as my film this week.


When young idealist writer Christian (Ewan McGregor) comes to the Monmartre section of Paris during the turn of the last century, he is seeking a bohemian adventure of truth, beauty, freedom and most of all love. What he finds however is a vagabond group of performers producing a show for Harold Zidler’s (Jim Broadbent) brothel/nightclub—The Moulin Rouge. Among the troupe is Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) who is greatly impressed by Christian’s talents and begs him to help pen their new show, Spectacular Spectacular. After resisting his father’s voice in his head warning him of the evils of the bohemian lifestyle, Christian agrees to sign on as the new writer.

The following evening at the Moulin Rouge, due to a dance of mistaken identity Christian meets the star of the club, Satine (Nicole Kidman), who believes he is in fact a wealthy Duke. But while Satine has been entertaining and falling in love with the penniless writer, she has unknowingly neglected the Duke who also happens to be the Moulin’s biggest investor. After a good deal of singing and dancing Satine finally manages to dupe the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) into believing he is the object of her desire and convinces him to fund the new play by the brilliant young writer Christian—the man she actually loves, thus setting up a doomed love triangle. Unfortunately the Duke holds the deeds to the Moulin Rouge and if she refuses to sleep with him on opening night he will surely close the nightclub leaving Satine, Zidler and the rest of the performers with nothing. So, what’s a girl to do?

What I find interesting about the character of Satine is that she is essentially an object to all those around her. She is even given the nickname “The Sparkling Diamond”, a thing of beauty to be bought, rather than a living woman. The Duke, Zidler, the men at the Moulin, and even Christian to an extent think of her as a thing to be had and kept, fought over and won, rather than a woman who can make her own choices. Ultimately the cruel joke is on her admirers because unlike a diamond she is fragile and in the end, nothing more than mortal. If those who claimed to love her had spent less time battling to posses her they might have realized she was already owned by a far graver master.

I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to the art direction in this film, I will use the word glorious because this is a rare situation where it seems fully appropriate. Catherine Martin acted as art director and designed the gorgeous costumes as well, she won well-deserved Academy Awards on both counts. Martin also happens to be Baz Luhrmann’s wife, obviously the two make an incredible pair and I hope they make many more movies together.

Whoever had the idea to make a movie-musical using pieces of songs from bands as diverse as The Beatles and Nirvana was absolutely brilliant. Not only is it entertaining to hear songs we’re all familiar with used in different ways, but by mixing them together the pieces are recreated in to something new and in many cases create something better than the original. Personally I’ve never been a big Elton John fan, but I’ve had the Moulin Rouge! version of “Your Song” in my itunes rotation for years and love every second of it—and not just because it’s sung by the incredibly adorable Ewan McGregor.

Everything about this film is over the top, the saturated colors the elaborate sets and the boisterous acting, so you would think it wouldn’t be able to pack an emotional punch, but somehow it does. The film starts off with pure insanity, the camera ducks and zooms to the point of dizziness, the characters at times seem unruly and strange, shouting, laughing and buzzing with pure energy. As the film progresses it appears to slow, the juxtaposition of bawdy with serious only makes the emotion that much more jarring. By the showstopping finale, time has seemingly stopped and the audience is left with a heartbreaking conclusion that seems shocking despite the warning of impending doom given in the first few minutes of the film.

Moulin Rouge! is a movie-musical, but it’s very unlike any other musical out there. While it’s over the top and theatrical it doesn’t have the hokey feeling often found in Broadway shows—I’m not knocking Broadway, just pointing out what a feat it is to create a musical that deviates so far from the standard. Moulin Rougue! is a film with everything that can be enjoyed by everyone. If you’ve already seen it, with the extravagant sets and performances, there is always something new to discover the next time you watch it.

Beauty in the Movies: Moulin Rouge!

Beauty in the Movies: Moulin Rouge! by justinez on Polyvore.com

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Lady Porn Day: Porn and Plot

I’ve been invited to discuss a topic I rarely talk about on this blog—sex, specifically porn and masturbation as they relate to women. Now before some of you shy away, you should know that the point of this project is to get women talking about a topic often labeled as taboo. While I am the first to admit it might be outside my comfort zone, I also can’t resist a challenge. If you want to know more about Lady Porn Day and the awesome woman, Rachel Rabbit White, who got us all talking you can find more info. here. (slightly NSFW illustrations below)

I thought a lot about how to broach this subject because obviously there is a lot to say. The more I thought about it the more I wanted to pinpoint at least part of what doesn’t appeal to many women about pornography. For me, it can be hard to separate out the actress from the act—who is she? Is she happy? Is she safe? Is this her choice? I can be neurotic, and I often worry about these things and find them distracting, but that’s just one small factor, I find that pornography in general isn’t made for women. From the weird costuming to the unnecessary extreme close-ups and unflattering angels, there are a lot of things that distract from the romance of it. So the question comes down to, what is it that really turns women on?

I found one answer to that question in an article in this month’s Marie Claire (who woulda thunk?). The article was about a 27-year-old female pastor and her struggle with abstinence. At one point she mentions having a particularity hard time due to fantasizing about fictional vampire Edward Cullen of the Twilight series. And she is not alone, teens, moms, women of all ages, and apparently even women of the cloth are obsessively fantasizing about a teenage vampire who refuses to engage in sexual activity until marriage. So what’s the appeal? It might be that the lack of sex just makes the series that much more sexy, but it’s something else too—it’s storyline.

There is a reason why so much fan-fiction is dirty and porn spoofs and parodies of acclaimed movies are so popular too. They give you an automatic connection to the characters you’re watching engage in dirty deeds, and that makes things a lot more interesting. In most porn, a cheesy plot-line is set up, a delivery man is invited in or a woman randomly shows up at a guy’s house and—BOOM, sex. All you know about the characters is that they want to have sex and maybe that they received a package from UPS, no storyline, no development, which also means no seduction, no romance, no restraint. Women love romance, not all of us like the schlocky rom-com type, but some of us do, and even if we don’t I’m sure there are other forms of romance we do love. Erotica for example could be considered a form of pornography but it’s usually handled with sensuality, romance, and in-depth narrative. All you have to do is read Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin to understand that descriptions of sex can be created with lyrical beauty and insight while still being incredibly pornographic.

There are plenty of men out there who love romance as well, and while porn as it is gets the job done, maybe they often find themselves fantasizing about women they know—wives, ex-girlfriends, maybe even characters from movies, because they feel more of a connection to them. I’m the last person to point out what needs to be done to change the porn industry, I don’t know nearly enough about it, but the task at hand was to talk about it and this is a point I find interesting. Obviously it’s not as easy as adding a better plot to porn films. As my husband pointed out, if you introduced real storyline to a porno, most men would fast forward to the sex, and most porn stars understandably wouldn’t know what to do with a script requiring them to play a developed character. Who’s to say that it can’t be done though? I hate the idea that pornography and art have to be staunchly separated. Just because something contains explicit sex shouldn’t mean it’s lacking in artistic value. Personally I would be more interested in pornography that was written with appealing characters or explored any number of new and creative ways to make porn about more than just people having sex on camera.

Porn is sex, but sex for most of us is much more than just the act, it’s a culmination of a relationship and emotions which for many of us are a very important part of what makes sex satisfying. I’m not saying that women need an emotional connection every time they have sex or masturbate, that’s a myth that many have worked hard to abolish. I do think that men and women think about sex differently, and for some of us sex itself isn’t as important as the relationship of the characters engaging in it as well as the atmosphere surrounding them. When it comes down to it women are all so unique it’s hard to say what turns each of us on, but we’re a big market so it would be worth it to figure us out, and it might be an educational experience for men as well. Character might be something for the porn industry to look into to get more women interested, it’s definitely something to think about, and I’m just glad I accepted this challenge and found my own small way to write about women and porn that made sense to me. I encourage all of you to read more about this topic from other women who probably have way more insight into the actual world of pornography than I do, if for no other reason than we don’t talk about it enough.

Happy Lady Porn Day everyone!

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Filed under acceptance, health