Friday, January 27, 2012

Spectacular Spectacular

Several weeks ago a friend of mine invited me to join her for the Alamo Drafthouse Moulin Rouge Singalong on January 26. I jumped at the chance. I had never been to a singalong at the Drafthouse, I love spending time with Jill, and I really liked what I had seen of Moulin Rouge. Sounded like fun. Fun is an understatement.

I had never really seen Moulin Rouge. At least not all the way through. I had seen segments of it here or there while channel surfing, and then there was the time I tried to watch it on our portable DVD player only to have it die 10 minutes in, but I had never watched from opening credits to closing. Even if I had seen Moulin Rouge from start to finish, I couldn't really say that I had seen it because I had only ever watched it on a small screen. Nope, that's NOT the way to see - to EXPERIENCE - Moulin Rouge. It is a Big Screen Movie.

Oh, Baz, how I do love you.

I wasn't sure what to expect. They passed out props (a small rubber frog, a glow stick, a light-up ring and a maraca) so I knew that the interaction was more than just singing. I was almost afraid that it was going to be a Rocky Horror type of experience. That's fine and I love Rocky Horror, but I thought that Moulin Rouge wasn't cheesy enough for a full-on Rocky interaction. The guys at Action Pack who created this singalong know what they are doing. None of the interactions were cheesy. None of them disrespected the love story and the passion. They were all just clever additions to what was happening on screen. Three moments stand out: I think my favorite prop participation was the glow sticks during the absinthe induced fairy scene. Perfect. Then the Moulin Rouge version of Roxanne was enhanced beyond belief by the audience stomping to the beat. It was amazing to feel the beat through the floor. But what really gave me chills was the confetti cannon during the height of the two love songs - when the screen filled with glitter/stardust/confetti, they shot off a confetti cannon and the entire movie theatre was filled with ticker tape! The effect was magical.

Moulin Rouge is a masterpiece, and I don't say that lightly. (Sometimes I get caught up in the hype of certain films - I tend to gush over movies that, upon second viewing, were just mediocre. I do that less and less now as I, ahem, mature. It could also be that I don't watch films as much as I used to - time constraints and budget constraints will do that - so I tend to do more research into quality.) Declaring Moulin Rouge a masterpiece is not me going overboard just because I had a fun night. And it's not just because of the visuals, the style, the performances, the genius way that modern songs were integrated into turn of the (last) century Paris. It was also the effect that the film had on the audience. I was very conscious of the people around me and how they were experiencing the film. Every one of us in loved the movie. Not just an "I really like this movie", but in a deep, respectful, almost reverent way. (One or two people tried to shout a heckle and were very quickly shut down - not by "shush" or "stop", but by silence. No one was going to come out of their viewing experience to give attention to someone who obviously didn't "get" it.) The entire audience viewed the film together - it was not just a bunch of people watching a movie in the same location.

I've mentioned before that I'm a theatre brat. I grew up on and back stage. This is a perfect movie for me - the story of the performers, the theatrical nature of the cinematography and direction, the lights! The costumes! (Sorry. I got carried away.) It's a very powerful experience for me when a film transcends the screen and becomes more tangible and more immediate. (Like the climax of Jaws.) In the hands of a genius, film can be more than just a story told on a screen. Even on its own at a regular screening or, not ideally, on the small screen at home, Moulin Rouge is a cinematic treat. The genius of Baz Luhrmann is that his film is so passionate and creative that it inspires the same passion in its viewers. It is not content to be merely on a screen - large or small. It almost literally demands to be more. I am so thankful that I live in a city where there are people meeting those demands. Many, many kudos to Action Pack and the Alamo Drafthouse for experiences like this one. And many, many thanks to Jill for sharing the experience with me!!!!

Now I hear that they are working on a Little Shop of Horrors singalong . . .

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