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by Susan Royal

Nine years ago Australian director Baz Luhrmann's career was launched at the Cannes Film Festival. His very first film, Strictly Ballroom, while not selected to screen in the official competition for the Palme d'Or, did make it into "Un Certain Regard," the sidebar section for interesting new directors. His first foray before the international film community consisted of one midnight screening which was so well-received that the Festival arranged an unheard-of second screening of the film the very next evening. Strictly Ballroom went on to take both the Prix de Jeunesse and runner-up for the Camera d'Or, making Luhrmann officially a Cannes discovery.

In 1996 Luhrmann experimented with combining contemporary music and classical material in a modern-day setting in his film William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. With Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann once again has chosen to update classical material -- this time, setting the Orpheus myth in 19th Century Paris against a backdrop of contemporary music ranging from "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But he further experiments by making Moulin Rouge a full-blown musical. His stars, Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, actually break into song. The film concerns a struggling poet (McGregor) who descends into the infamous Montmartre nightclub district and falls hard for a notorious singer/dancer/courtesan (Kidman). The club is also frequented by the debauched Toulouse-Lautrec, played by John Leguizmo.

This year the Cannes Film Festival awarded its prime real estate -- the opening night slot -- to Moulin Rouge, which will also compete for the Fest's top prize, the Palme d'Or. Opening with a big, splashy Hollywood (20th Century Fox) film about a French institution, directed by a Cannes favorite and starring an actress very much in the news today, may give a well-needed shot in the arm to the Cannes Film Festival whose recent editions have seemed a bit lackluster considering its illustrious history.

After its world premiere at Cannes, Moulin Rouge will open in New York and Los Angeles on May 18 and nationwide on June 1.

For more information about the film got to
For more information about the Cannes Film Festival, go to .

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