Along with Coppola and Anderson, Baz Luhrmann was one of the first filmmakers I wanted to do with [the films of]. His movies, however few of them there are, are each so wonderfully energetic and filled to the brink with songs, dance and drama. Luhrmann’s films feel like constantly taking theatrical blows to the face: this behind-the-video post explains how I tried to translate that to 3 minutes.
The video’s opening shot was a fairly complicated bit of trickery. As you may see, this is the opening shot of Moulin Rouge. But you might also remember that the screen isn’t black at all, the 20th Century Fox-intro is playing. I replaced the screen in After Effects with a green solid overlay (frame by frame) and then used Final Cut to remove the green and replace it with black. Now I could paste my own title behind the curtains.
The sound is an orchestra warming up; not only one of the most fantastic sounds on earth (I think), but also symbolic of the theatricality of Luhrmann’s films. You might notice the sound is slightly pitched up, that’s because the typical C in which orchestra’s tune didn’t melt well with the first notes of Your Song. It actually sounded terrible. With a slight pitch, that problem was solved.
The video then really opens with the CD version of Moulin Rouge's Your Song. This is worth noting because only the first few seconds of the song are the CD version; when we see Christian in close-up, it’s the DVD Audio Track. I chose the 5.1 surround track from the DVD because it allowed me to seperate the singing from the orchestra, which will come in handy later on.
This was the very first edit I came up with in my mind, the aquarium scene from Romeo + Juliet with this song.
You can hear the orchestra fading to a different part of the song, yet the singing remains consistent. I could never have pulled off a transition this smooth had I used the CD version of the song.
Strictly Ballroom is an older film, which means the footage from the DVD I owned looked absolutely terrible (4:3 with oversaturation and massive contrast) next to the other films, which is why I used a Blu-Ray Rip of the film. Not only is the aspect ratio corrected, colors are also much more realistic.
Did my heart love ‘til now?
Luhrmann’s most impressive work is of course his modern interpretation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and so it’s dialogue gets the sweet spots. You can also hear the singing fading out, which is to make the dialogue more clear and create a sort of dream-like moment before the serious second part kicks in.
One of the better moments of the video I think is when Your Song's sweet melody is combined with the dark opening notes from El Tango de Roxanne. Why I find this a very successful part of the video will come later on. You can hear Your Song slowing down to accompany Roxanne's rythm and the singing is practically muted now.
El Tango de Roxanne has a very latinesque feel to it, so the Capulet boys from Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge work really well with it. This is one of those golden moments that when you see the music and the shot together, it just multiplies.
I sat down and I wrote our story.
The video cuts to it’s climax nearly halfway, which is considerably faster than other [the films of]’s, but all is explained later on.
Exit Music (for a film) by Radiohead. What can I say. There is no way you can make a video, use this, and fuck up. It’s one of the best songs written for a movie ever and it accompanies Romeo + Juliet so well. Moulin Rouge's dialogue somehow sums up every Luhrmann film in only a few lines. The song slowly builds to it's climax.
If you watch all of [the films of]’s entries you might notice I’m a sucker for slow-motion. The electric guitar plays very fast notes and the exact opposite is happening on screen.
Another great piece of dialogue from Romeo + Juliet plays here, again all of which I’ll explain later on.
I honestly don’t see why people didn’t like Australia; obviously it was a little long and yes, it was a little inconsistent, but I sure as hell got a kick out of it, especially these epic set pieces that are right up Luhrmann’s alley.
Minogue opens her mouth wide, it’s almost as if she is singing the song herself.
Again, a lot of screaming, the characters seem to completely go up in the track which now really reaches it’s climax.
There’s a lot of crashes in the drum track here, which go really well with impacts and cuts.
Well now’s the moment you have been waiting for: I’ll explain what the hell is going on in the video.
It has 4 parts: an intro, a ‘second act’, a climax and then a post-climax (which starts here at this shot of Romeo). See where I’m going with this?
I tried to build the video in a way that Luhrmann builds his films: the intro, which is sweet and optimistic, then the second act, where problems start to arise and the climax is introduced, the climax itsself, in which all hell breaks loose, everyone dies and cries… But what’s so interesting is that Luhrmann always squeezes in an additional scenes, where the characters reflect on decisions that lead to their inevitable fate with a sense of guilt and regret. Luhrmann shows these characters taking fate in their own hands and the viewer is oftenly already aware of the outcome, which makes his films incredibly tense to watch.
This here is one of those moments: Romeo just shot someone, and he regrets this decision, because he know it will result in everything that follows. It’s the beginning of the end, almost.
It’s also what makes the transition to from part one to part two so great: you have the optimism, but the viewer already knows what will happen, and so the seemingly hopeful dialogue and music are ‘ruined’ by the realization of the outcome.
Then you also have the Duke from Moulin Rouge exiting the theater, regretting his crucial decision.
And, of course, ‘the aftermath’. The final result of everything we saw in the film, in the video, of which we already knew but it’s still sad to see realized.
Baz Luhrmann is an entry I’m very proud of, not only because he has a very distinctive vision but because the video is mirrored to that vision: this is how I think Luhrmann would sum up his films, and achieving that makes me very proud.