Moulin Rouge (2001)

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“There was a boy….a very strange, enchanted boy….they said he wandered very far, very far…..over land and sea, a little shy and sad of eye….but, very wise was he…..and then one day, one magic day, he passed my way….while we spoke of many things….fools and kings….this he said to me, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn….is just to love and be loved in return.” Nature Boy, sung by John Leguizamo on Moulin Rouge soundtrack

Moulin Rouge

In 2001, a riot of colour, song, beauty and costume exploded on the cinema screen.  Moulin Rouge.  If I’m honest, I sat through the first 20 minutes wondering what the heck was going on, but then, I let go of reality as soon as Kylie appeared as the green absinthe fairy and stopped thinking and let the creative mad genius of Baz Luhrmann envelop me and I was hooked.

Jim Broadbent, Ewan Macgregor, Nicole Kidman

Already a fan of Luhrmann’s pop culture interpretation of Romeo & Juliet, I knew Moulin Rouge would not be some run of the mill romance story.  Once again, his use of modern pop and rock music for a soundtrack, along with amazing visuals and a brilliant story was a winning formula.

Moulin Rouge tells the story of Christian (Ewan Macgregor), a penniless writer in search of true romance and success in literature, arriving in Paris in 1899.  He befriends the artist, Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo) and gets sucked into the seemingly glamourous night-world of the Moulin Rouge.  Christian meets and falls in love with the beautiful star of the Moulin Rouge, and courtesan, Satine (Nicole Kidman).  She takes a chance and returns his feelings.  The lovers plan to escape together, away from Satine’s pimp and manager of the Moulin Rouge, Harold Zidler (Jim Broadbent) and a wealthy patron of the club, the Duke (Richard Roxburgh) who has become obsessed with Satine.  Although the lovers are helped by their friends, as they work on a new musical for the Moulin Rouge, things are not as simple as they appear….

I love that Nicole and Ewan sing their songs, rather than somebody else.  This gives the film more heart.  The soundtrack is amazing, it includes covers of songs by Nirvana, David Bowie, Elton John, Sting and Randy Crawford.  I have the soundtrack and my favourite is Beck’s cover of Diamond Dogs.

Satine and Christian (Kidman & Macgregor)

Nicole Kidman is at her most beautiful and Ewan Macgregor his most charming.  Jim Broadbent and the rest of the supporting cast are fantastic too.  If you love art, stunning costumes, colour, romance and music….you will love this film.

Satine (Nicole Kidman)

Satine: “Never knew, I could feel like this…like I’ve never seen the sky before, want to vanish inside your kiss…..every day I love you more and more.”

Trivia:

The necklace that Satine (Nicole Kidman) wears was not costume, but made with 1,308 diamonds and platinum.  It was the most expensive item of jewellery ever made for a film, worth $1million!

Moulin Rouge is dedicated to Baz Luhrmann’s father, Leonard, who passed away just before filming began.

Images: IMDb

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Lost in Translation

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I love Sofia Coppola.  She is one of my favourite directors.  In a sea of male directors, Sofia has become well respected in her profession.  Sofia has, like many brilliant directors, her own style that is instantly recognisable.  You know you are watching one of her films.

Lost in Translation

As visually beautiful as Ms Coppola’s films are, I love her focus on her characters too.  Of all her work, I think, personally, this is truest in the exemplary Lost in Translation.

Charlotte, Lost in Translation

Starring Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen, and set in Tokyo, this has a winning formula from the start.

Two bored and lonely individuals, Charlotte, newly married and pottering about in the hotel she is staying in whilst her husband (a photographer, played by Giovanni Ribisi) goes off to work, and Bob, an ageing action movie star staying in Tokyo to film a commercial, form an unlikely friendship.  They set about exploring Tokyo and turning their time there into an adventure, whilst getting to know one another.

Bob:  It gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids.

Charlotte:  It’s scary.

Bob: The most terrifying day of your life is the day the first one is born.

Charlotte:  Nobody ever tells you that.

Bob:  Your life, as you know it…is gone.  Never to return.  But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk…and you want to be with them.  And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.

Charlotte:  That’s nice.

I love seeing Scarlett in a non-sexpot role for a change.  She is a great actress and gets to show this through Charlotte.  I love Bill Murray as a comic actor, but he is wonderful as Bob, bringing a vulnerability and sensitivity to him, proving what a great serious actor Bill is too.

There are some truly touching moments in the film, none more so than the ending, which is not clichéd either.

Lost in Translation is essentially a non-traditional love story. A non-chick flick, chick flick for the more discerning film lover.

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Lost in Translation: 2003

Images: IMDb

Working Girl

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I didn’t watch Working Girl until I was in my early 20’s.  It is one of those films that is shown late at night a couple of times a year, so one evening, I was bored and decided to give it a chance.  I’m glad I did because I love it.

Directed by Mike Nichols and released in 1988, I don’t think things have changed all that dramatically for women in the workplace since then.  This film will resonate for many women in business and secretaries/PA’s who were better than their job.

Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is a secretary from Staten Island who wants more out of life and wants to be taken seriously by her idiot male colleagues.  She has a degree in business, which she achieved through attending night school.  Her boyfriend, Mick (Alec Baldwin), doesn’t understand why Tess wants more out of life and wants her to settle down with him.

Tess and Katherine

Tess keeps being promised an executive position, but it never happens.  After getting her own back on her colleagues for another stupid prank they’ve played on her (involving the amazing Kevin Spacey as a slimeball), Tess is moved to another department to work for a new female executive, Katherine Parker, played to bitchy perfection by the wonderful Sigourney Weaver.  At first, Tess is encouraged by working for a female boss, but it turns out Katherine is no better than her old colleagues.  She just patronises Tess in a passive aggressive manner.

Jack and Tess

Disheartened, one morning on the Staten Island ferry, Tess has a brainwave for an important client, Trask, to make an investment in radio, but knowing nobody will take her seriously, she takes matters in her own hands.  Whilst Katherine is out of the country because of a skiing accident, Tess wangles her way into an important party, by using Katherine’s name, so she can meet executive Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford at his most charming).

Jack Trainer: “You’re the first woman I’ve seen at one of these things that dresses like a woman, not like a woman thinks a man would dress if he was a woman.”

Jack likes Tess’s pitch and says he will back her.  Whilst they work on their pitch to Trask, Tess and Jack fall for each other, but Jack just happens to be Katherine’s boyfriend and Katherine returns from Europe…..

Without spoiling any more of the plot, I hope I have told you enough to make you want to watch the film.  I haven’t seen Melanie Griffith in anything else, but she is fantastic in this.  She portrays Tess as sharp, witty, likeable and just the right side of cute.  The supporting cast are great, including Joan Cusack as Tess’s best friend, Cynthia, who has the brilliant line to Jack “can I get you anything? coffee, tea, me?” and Philip Bosco as Mr Trask.  The ending of the movie leaves you grinning and I love the song “Let the River Run”, which won Carly Simon an Oscar.  Just watching this film for the 80’s hair and fashion is a must.  Enjoy!

Tess McGill: “You bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you’re trying to get there.  And, if you’re someone like me, you can’t get there without bending the rules.”

Images: IMDb

Amelie

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Amelie is a delightful french fancy of a film that leaves you feeling wonderful and ready to don your ballet pumps and pack your chic leather weekend bag, bound for Paris.  If you like romance, but want sophistication with it, Amelie is the sweet Laduree macaron of the chick flicks.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, this 2001 film did very well for a French movie.  There are many fantastic french films, but not that many are commercially successful in the uk (sadly), however, Amelie was.

This was the film that made the beautiful Audrey Tautou a star.

Amelie Poulain (Audrey Tautou)

Amelie Poulain views life through rose-tinted glasses and lives in a fantastical world.  As a child, she was home-schooled and not allowed to play with other children because her parents believed she had a heart defect.

Amelie overlooking Paris

Her mother dies in a freak accident and her father withdraws from the world, caring more about his garden gnome than his daughter who clearly needs him. Amelie moves to an apartment in the Montmartre and works in a cafe as a waitress.

Amelie discovers a box of childhood memorabilia, that had been hidden by a little boy who lived in her apartment years before her.  She decides that she wishes to find the owner of the box and whilst doing so, she wishes to help enrich the lives of those around her. Whilst helping others, she is not addressing her own loneliness and need for love.  Amelie finds the little boy, now grown up (Nino, played by Matthieu Kassovitz) who hid the box and falls in love with him, but is not prepared to confront or act on her feelings.

Audrey Tautou is a joy in this film and never makes Amelie cloyingly sweet, annoying or stupid.  Some people dislike the way Jeunet shows Paris, in such a beautiful light. I disagree with the naysayers.  Jeunet is simply showing Paris through Amelie’s eyes.  She wants to see the good in everyone and in her surroundings and that is good enough for me.

Amelie watches Nino (Matthieu Kassovitz)

If you have never watched a foreign/subtitled film before, Amelie is a good film to start with.  For me personally, if a story is good then I don’t see the subtitles after the first ten minutes and I’m engrossed.  A beautiful feel good movie for anyone who enjoys a quirky romantic movie, or who has been, or wishes to go to Paris.

Trivia:

The main colours in the film (green, yellow and red) are inspired by the paintings of the Brazilian artist Juarez Machado

British actress, Emily Watson, was offered the role of Amelie.  In fact the role was specifically written for her, but she declined as she does not speak French

Jean-Pierre Jeunet often portrays children as orphans in his films

Amelie works in a cafe called Les Deux Moulins.  This cafe really does exist in Paris.

Roman Holiday

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Princess Ann, Roman Holiday: “I’ve never been alone with a man before, even with my dress on.  With my dress off, it’s MOST unusual.”

Audrey Hepburn as Princess Ann

I fell in love with Audrey Hepburn when I was a little girl.  There is nobody else like her.  She was not the best actress (not that she was bad either), but she had a natural, striking beauty and charisma.  She became, and still is, a style icon.  Everybody says ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’ when naming their favourite Audrey film, but mine has always been Roman Holiday.

Audrey and Gregory Peck, Roman Holiday

Directed by William Wyler in 1953, Roman Holiday was the match that lit the flame of my obsession with Italy and all things Italian.

Audrey plays Princess Ann.  She is young and evidently fed up with carrying out royal duties.  Ann wishes to engage with real people and experience the daily occurrences ordinary people take for granted.

Gregory Peck is incredibly handsome in this film and his natural stoicism is perfect for his role as Joe Bradley, the American News Correspondent based in Rome.

Princess Ann escapes one night and is found by Joe, who, realising who she is, thinks he will end up with a superb exclusive story on the young royal.  However, things take a rather different turn.

When you consider the movies around in this era, most of them have the Hollywood ‘happy ending’.  Without spoiling it for newcomers, I will only say that Roman Holiday was ahead of its time in that regard and that makes the ending more powerful for it.

La Bocca della Verita: Legend has it, if you tell it a lie, it’ll bite your hand off…

Roman Holiday is for lovers of retro clothing and scooters, travel, Italy, romance and charm.  If you haven’t seen it before, light the candles, grab a glass of prosecco and watch it with your best friends.

Trivia:

Princess Margaret was so taken with Audrey Hepburn in this film that she reportedly said “why, she could almost certainly be one of us”

The scene with the Bocca della Verita was adlibbed by Gregory Peck, hence Audrey’s reaction is genuine

Roman Holiday was almost directed by Frank Capra (of It’s a Wonderful Life) with Cary Grant and Elizabeth Taylor as the leads

Roman Holiday was the first American film to be shot entirely in Italy

The film was shot in black and white because William Wyler did not want to detract from the beauty of Rome

Images: IMDb