Sunday, February 22, 2015

to make you a star

First of all, I really wanted to listen to a commentary track tonight, but I cannot get a subtitle track to turn on, and I don't like doing commentary without subtitles... it's not like I've got this movie memorized just yet. Groundhog Day, sure--it'd be like bring on the commentary track because I know every word... and I've heard the commentary track like three times. But, Moulin Rouge!--I do not have it all memorized yet. The songs, maybe. But, not all the dialogue.

Anyway, outside the world of this blog, it is Oscar day. Awards ended about an hour ago, as I am starting this entry. Since it is Oscar day, I thought it worth mentioning that Moulin Rouge! was nominated for best picture, for lead actress and for cinematography and editing and makeup and sound, and it won for costume design and art direction. Kidman won the Golden Globe for actress in a comedy or musical, and Craig Armstrong's score won--which is surprising; I know there are percentage standards for originality in a score, and while there are numerous segments in this film that use the new music, it seems like, percentage wise, it just wouldn't outweigh all the borrowed material. McGregor and Luhrmann were nominated at the Globes but didn't win, as was (and didn't) the song "Come What May." Broadbent won for his supporting role at the BAFTAs. As did Armstrong for the music, and an award for sound, and it was nominated there for best film and original screenplay and cinematography and production design and editing and special visual effects and make up/hair... Let's just say it got a lot of nominations and some wins because, it's awesome.

And, I've been watching the Oscars and Oscar pre- and post-show stuff for the last several hours. Had some wine, had some nice conversation online, and posted a whole lot over on my personal Twitter and Facebook about the awards. Has some wine... but no absinthe. Moulin Rouge! has made me want some absinthe, and I want it served properly. Only one bar around these parts that does that (that I know of).

Meanwhile, I had to doublecheck to see what I had said I planned to use for my other approaches for Moulin Rouge! for a) my media theory paper and by extension, for b) this blog. Apparently, I suggested queer theory, but other than pointing out that moment in which Satine offers up three versions of herself--all of them perfectly heteronormative, by the way--as possibilities to meet the Duke, I'm not sure I can get a very in-depth paragraph about that. And, maybe I'll rethink this later, but coming at the film as a populist movie seems boring right now. One thing I didn't mention was coming at Moulin Rouge! through a Marxist lens. We had no real readings on that for class (which is a problem, I think). I did mention looking at the film as an auteur film--and it is that. But, it has been a good while since I've watched, say, Strictly Ballroom, though I have seen that numerous times, including at least three times in the theater (it ran at the second run theater in Pasadena as a double feature with Benny and Joon and that was a nice double feature), or William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet... hell, I don't think I've watched that one all the way through aside from in the theater when it first came out. Same with Australia. And, Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby--that movie bugged me. I saw it as a preview screening well before it was released, and the visual effects were incomplete, but it wasn't that that bugged me. I think Luhrmann's style celebrated the excess of Gatsby's parties just a little too much for how I see that story. Sure, Gatsby's parties are lavish, but it seems like the point is that he's overcompensating for what he's missing in his life, so the film probably shouldn't make those parties seem so damn fun. Start that way, sure, but, show us that Gatsby is not really enjoying them as you keep going. And, I think the HFR camera was not made for the likes of Luhrmann; he's just got too much movement in his films for that amount of detail to really work; it's too distracting. Peter Jackson does a little better with HFR, with his tendency toward longer shots... Except that's not entirely true anymore; as the Hobbit films went on, Jackson got a lot more energetic with his camera. I think that sort of immersive detail works better with something even more outlandish, set literally outside our world...

That being said, I think it might have fit pretty well with Moulin Rouge!. The excess on display is part and parcel of the story. The love story is grounded because it is positioned at the center of something so opulent and grand. Love itself becomes this unreal, awe-inspiring thing, separate from reality yet entire relatable to it.

(I only just noticed that as Christian finally starts singing for Satine, the lights of Paris turn on. Awesome.)

Actually, that parenthetical doesn't even need to be parenthetical because that right there is the point--the showy bits blend right into the (relatively) grounded bits and love and magic and music and the imagination and all of show business and patriarchy and revolution and control and freedom are all rolled into this one, bright and colorful package. The Bohemian and the proper shoved right up next to each other...

Remember, the quotation the other day from The Bottoming Book:

...fantasies have a lot in common with mythology: they are stories that people become attached to for a variety of reasons, they satisfy some sexual or psychological need or want in our (probably only partially conscious) minds, they are rich in symbolism and emotional texture. They are the stories dreams are made of. (Easton & Hardy, 2001, p. 80)

I've already argued about how Moulin Rouge! is specifically built out of familiar parts to deliberately get us to latch onto its details and get sucked in, but let me reiterate here that the film essentially acts as a dream, a fantasy, a brand new myth for us to revolve our lives around if we wish. It operates on such a fundamental level, touching on our ideas of love and creativity and loyalty and song and dance and life and death... maybe that is the angle I need for my paper--Moulin Rouge! as mythbuilder. It takes the mundane and the fantastic and positions them right up against, and within, one another.

Which actually brings me to something that will be part of my presentation on queer theory two nights from now (in performance class). The specific article (Munoz, 2006) I will be covering--actually, much like is often the case with this blog, I spend a whole lot of time avoiding the actual content of the article I'm presenting--describes a gallery show of photographer Kevin McCarty. McCarty, among other things, took photos of stages from various clubs. One particular set of clubs that he photographed was the Chameleon Club, a punk rock club, and 1470's, a gay club, in Dayton, Ohio. Though offering obviously different atmospheres, these two clubs were actually connected. Physically connected. A door next to the bar in the former led to the latter, and while punks from the Chameleon Club ventured into 1470's, the reverse was never the case. Munoz takes McCarty's juxtaposition as representative of "a stage of in-between-ness, a spatiality that is aligned with a temporality that is on the threshold between identifications, life worlds, and potentialities" (p. 14). That is, the stage--and so much of Moulin Rouge! involves a literal stage--is a place where anything is possible. If we treat our lives as such a stage--inventing the presentation to fit the reality we want, much like Christian and Satine--then we, in Munoz' terms, perform utopia. We create ourselves and our world in the image we want.

I can pretend a confidence in front of my students, for example, that is harder to pretend one on one. I can pretend confidence online--in this blog, even--that is much harder in person. But, the point is, and it probably isn't obvious, if I can pretend in one situation, I should be able to pretend in another. I should be able to pretend and pretend until the pretense is the reality and I am exactly who I want and intend to be.

As can you, whoever you are, whoever you intend to be. To quote Buster from Groundhog Day, "I don't want to know about it, as long as it's legal." Except I actually might like to hear about it, because personal growth and transformation is often quite amazing.

Works Cited

Easton, D. & Hardy, J.W. (2001). The New Bottoming Book. Emeryville, CA: Greenery Press.

Munoz, J.E. (2006). Stages: Queers, punks, and the utopian performance. In D. Soyini Madison & J. Hamera (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Performance Studies (9-20). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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