Customer Review

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but gorgeous Huston classic, August 19, 2004
This review is from: Moulin Rouge (DVD)
The characters and plot of Huston's 1952 ground-breaker can't be confused with Nicole Kidman's 2001 contrived schlock, nor will this revived classic be to everyone's taste. It's strictly an art-house product, though it earned big bucks in '52 and much critical acclaim. Like many Huston works, it refuses to become dated. Still, in hindsight, Ferrer's Toulouse-Lautrec is a brilliant but oddly remote portrayal (an odd mix that characterized Ferrer). The real Lautrec was an artistic outlaw of his day, a complex, talented, intractable rebel whose work was often considered pornographic (if only those critics could see Nicole's movies!) but who helped change 19th century sensibilities and even invented new printing processes. I think Ferrer plays him a little hard, but many might disagree. The editing seems rushed and choppy (having been finished mere hours before the film's debut); Suzanne Flon's playing of Myriamme flatly steals female honors from Colette Marchand, who wildly overplays Marie Charlet. Zsa Zsa Gabor's singing is flagrantly dubbed -- but "Bubbles, Bangles" is still a hauntingly lovely tune. Flaws aside, this movie has many seriously brilliant moments. Contrary to most Hollywood bio's of the era, Huston's Lautrec is unsanitized and unglamorous. The color is simply terrific, with many shots worthy of a gallery showing. Huston flaunted Technicolor's usual rules, creating images the way artists use paint, though the result often looks more like Matisse than Lautrec. I noted a bit of flicker in some sequences, visible on 3 DVD players. But few films approach the immersive color of many M.R. images, originally processed in British Technicolor. Some disappointments: with so much fascinating history behind the film's crew and the story's real-life characters, the only extra is a poorly rendered trailer. Some segments of audio are distorted. And the script wasn't all that great (though it easily trounces the 2001 insult). Not Huston's best film, but a landmark that seldom fails to fascinate and which is essential to every film buff's collection.
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