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Each of the three films in Baz Luhrmann’s 10-year debut opus for cinema, is chosen for its underlying mythical qualities, and taken to cinematic conclusions in visual style. The Red Curtain title refers to the theatricalised cinematic form. Overlaid on all three are love stories, and each film is a unique creation exploring different worlds. Strictly Ballroom (a combination of the David & Goliath story of overcoming impossible odds blended with The Ugly Duckling story) was completed in 1992. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet in 1996 (youthful love in conflict with society). The Bard was crucial in the title to emphasise that the words are all original. And Moulin Rouge (a revisited Orpheus in The Underworld story) opened the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. 

By Andrew L. Urban

Strictly Ballroom:
Strictly Ballroom, Australia's hot ticket at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival is all about dancing passion and revolution; it stars the Sydney Dance Company's tall, dark and handsome Paul Mercurio as Scott Hastings, the budding champion ballroom dancer who dares to step outside the Dance Federation's strict guidelines. He challenges the rules, takes on the establishment - and wins. 

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet:
The greatest love story ever told comes to life in mythical Verona Beach, a city ripe with attitude, passion and vengeance. Gangs rule the streets, and the citizens either thrive or barely survive in the wild raw environment. Baz has started from the premise that Shakespeare was writing pulp fiction for an audience of rowdy Englishmen who resembled a football crowd more than a theatre audience. He kept their attention and got them involved by every theatrical trick he knew. Baz simply imagined the Bard working today: this film, he believes, might have been what the foxy old writer could have come up with. 

Moulin Rouge:
Filled with a fusillade of images, an eclectic list of songs – plus doses of hyper-reality - Moulin Rouge is a seductive and original film, a turbocharged tribute to romanticism. Often daring in a readiness to push the concept to its ultimate, the film is chockers with diverse elements that would defy a lesser filmmaker, ranging from kitsch and camp to romance, idealism, melodrama and overstatement. While joyously reveling in the ability of film technique and language to create great ‘effect’, the love story at the heart of the film is real. This is the engine of the film for the audience, where our emotions are engaged fully aware of the construct around it.

Behind the Red Curtain Collector’s Disc:
As the menu comes up, we see the three couples from Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. The latter two are kissing, the other couple is dancing, holding each other. The colours and mood of the menu is Love. A snatch of ‘Love is in the air…’ plays once…stars twinkle. The detail is almost overwhelming. It’s meant to be; it’s designed to make us FEEL, not just look. 

If you have any interest in cinema as a form of artistic entertainment, this box set is pretty much indispensable, not because Baz Luhrmann is a master of cinematic art, but because the discs collectively give us a long and interesting glimpse into the process of filmmaking by one excellent practitioner, revealing the intellectual as well as emotional innards of why, how and where. You don’t need to be a film buff or an academic to enjoy this stuff; DVD is just a remarkable tool in your service for making movies more meaningful, better understood and enjoyed far longer than ever before. Anything of lasting value deserves lasting attention, whether it is music, literature, art or cinema.

Each disc is rich with content, but with the Collector’s Disc, we are taken into the context for the existence of this set of three extraordinary films. As a fan of all three, I guess I am just feasting on the deeper layers that are on offer here. But for anyone who didn’t get what Luhrmann was doing, or simply didn’t like it, here is the opportunity to delve into his creative choices. It’s as honest as you can be, and as fascinating as you need. 

Packaged with the trademark attention to detail and delivered with the imagination, passion, sincerity and intelligence that attend all his work, Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy DVD is engrossing stuff.

The Collector’s Disc contains over two hours of multi level material; you can branch off into illustrative side alleys during his centrepiece discussion, What is Red Curtain, specifically made for this DVD set. A close up of Baz in a black zippered top against a black background focuses our attention. He speaks (using his hands) as if unscripted, with just enough illustrations overlaid. No easy clip-fest here.

The birth of the series with Strictly Ballroom is a good yarn. And it leads to a clear exploration of just what forged this conceptual; approach to stories that would unite his audiences – unite in the sense of shared experience and insight. 

Learn how the Red Curtain series has a connection to The Queen; how his father once ran a local cinema; how a Bollywood movie inspired him; and how every aspect of the three films relies on a single set of coherent artistic concepts.

Click back to the menu for House of Iona, the sprawling home in an inner city Sydney suburb where Baz, Cm and the team ooze blood, sweat and tears to work up each project, whether film, opera or a magazine special edition. Don’t expect the typical guided tour: this one’s like a trip through the creative space therein – on Absinthe. 

If you have DVD Rom on an internet connected computer, go to Showbag for more stuff. Much more stuff. 

This is a sensational DVD release in every way, from packaging on the outside to the punch it packs on the inside. 

Published November 28, 2002

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GOLD MEMBERS: WIN one of five box sets, courtesy Fox Home Entertainment





CAST: Strictly Ballroom – Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice; Romeo + Juliet – Leonardo di Caprio, Claire Danes; Moulin Rouge – Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor

DIRECTOR: Baz Luhrmann


PRESENTATION: 16 x 9 (features only)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Strictly Ballroom x 1 disc.
Audio commentary by Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, John O’Connell; documentary Samba to Slow Fox; design gallery video montage with narration by Baz Luhrmann.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet x 1 disc
Audio commentary by Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Craig Pearce, Donald McAlpine; Director’s Gallery video segments; Cinematographer’s Gallery video segments; Design Gallery Catherine Martin Intreview; star and crew interviews (x 7); Music Gallery; Marketing gallery of trailers & TV spots

Moulin Rouge Special Edition x 2 discs DISC ONE: Production commentary with Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Don McAlpine; writers’ commentary by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce; Behind the Red Curtain feature;

DISC TWO: Uncut dance sequences; multi camera angles for Tango, Can Can, Coup d’Etat; behind the scenes featurette, music video clips, stills gallery, previsualisations

Behind The Red Curtain x 1 disc
Red Curtain Cinema – interactive documentary with Baz Luhrmann; The House of Iona documentary inside the Bazmark work space; Showbag – collection of weblinks, music videos and CD ROM features.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 27, 2002

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