Baz Luhrmann's razzle-dazzle reconstruction of Gay Paree on Australian sound stages and inside computers. Nothing, no matter how overdesigned, overdressed, and overdecorated, is held onto for an adequate appraisal. Everything is handled as a hot potato. And the easy-come-easy-go juggling act takes on a rough resemblance to post-Satyricon Fellini filtered through MTV. The director toys with film speeds, switches from full color to sepia and back again, chops scenes into splinters, sends the camera on a pinball path through a miniature Montmartre. Anything goes — and it generally goes in a great hurry. Luhrmann can't really keep up this pace for the duration. But like the free-swinging pugilist, he is willing to gamble that by the time he grows arm-weary his target will be seeing stars. Or, quite literally in Luhrmann's case, hearing tweety birds. That's by way of saying that his biggest liberty is the ongoing rummage through the pop-music archives, whereby pieces such as Rodgers-and-Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music" and Elton John's "Your Song" appear, as if through some time warp, to have been written for a century-old stage play entitled Spectacular Spectacular, the brain-child of a Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) who doesn't know how to pronounce his own name: Law-trek, he says it. The hit parade goes on and on: from "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" to "Material Girl," from Nat King Cole to Nirvana. All in the spirit of making the past "accessible" to the contemporary couch potato. And perish the thought that the couch potato be asked to get up off his duff and meet the past halfway. Perish the thought that he be asked to sit still for an actual can-can. Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh. (2001) — Duncan Shepherd
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