Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

The end and the New Millenium

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Moulin Rouge is profusely postmodern. Postmodernism seeps from its pores. The film’s blatant postmodernism can be found in everything from its Wikipedia description, “Australian-American romantic pastiche-jukebox musical film,” to its intentional blurring of the lines between high art and popular culture as seen in the many elaborate dance numbers with their accompanying pop musical song. The solidification of Moulin Rouge as a postmodern artifact continually occurs. I am choosing to focus on the film’s end. Not the elaborate final dance number, but the minute of time that precedes the rolling of the credits [start at 4:30–I couldn’t figure out how to do a timestamp]:

Although the video quality does not do it justice, the basic format of this clip goes: Christian narrates “The end,” Christian types “The end.” the curtains close on “The end,” and then the credits roll. In this moment, the viewer is beaten over the head with the fact that the end has arrived, but more importantly, the film’s extremely meta narrative and technical structure is again emphasized. This falls in line with postmodernism’s stylistic tendencies because “according to McHale postmodern fiction confronts the reader with questions about what sort of world is being created at each moment in the text” (Malpas 24). During this minute long stretch, the viewer must journey between mediums that are all invoking the same message. As a viewer, the journey from character to narrator to author to book to play to orchestra to movie is a feat of uncomfortable gymnastics. It  requires that the viewer to constantly confront herself with the world that “is being created at each moment.” Part of what makes Moulin Rouge uncomfortable if not unpleasant to watch is that the viewer is constantly being hit over the head with the fact that what is being watched is surreal; there is no comfortable way to convey the overlapping meta narrative of a film about a play that is itself a world that focuses on an author who is writing an account of his time working on a burlesque show. Moulin Rouge‘s self-awareness exemplifies postmodernism. By the time that the above clip takes place, the viewer is so used to being pulled out of the narrative that when the viewer is pulled out this final time the viewer automatically suspends her belief. But the viewer goes a step further because she also suspends her disbelief, the way that “The end” is reinforced makes sense now (Malpas 25). The form loses its harshness and becomes the mode through which this text is understood.

This video encapsulates simulacra by trying to emphasize the change that will be brought about by the start of the New Millennium.


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