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Ernest Harden Jr.,
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A fictionalized account of the latter part of the life of French artist Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901) is presented, he who is arguably most renowned professionally for immortalizing the characters of the Paris can-can dance hall, the Moulin Rouge, on canvas. This phase of his story begins in 1890. Born into aristocracy, Toulouse-Lautrec moves to Paris to pursue his art as he hangs out at the Moulin Rouge where he feels like he fits in being a misfit among other misfits. His misfit status is due to his diminutive physical stature, his legs which were broken and stopped growing following a childhood fall down some stairs. Because of the way he looks, he believes he is never destined to experience the true love of a woman. That lack of love in his life may change as he meets two women. The first is prostitute Marie Charlet, who he saves from imprisonment in a white knight act. Their relationship ends up being a turbulent one, the downs where each feels the need to hurt the other ...Written by
When Henri Lautrec arrives at the gallery for the showing of his pictures, as he 'walks' in, his shadow on the ground clearly shows Jose Ferrer's legs tucked behind him as he walks (on his knees). See more »
PROFOUNDLY MOVING and BRILLIANT; Ferrer was never better!
With the appearance of the 2001 movie entitled "Moulin Rouge" (see review) I went back to the Jose Ferrer version to add a review of it. Note that both films are entirely different in style and purpose; to equate them is to compare apples to pineapples.
This version, so well directed by John Huston, is not a wild frenetic musical but a very touching and moving character study of the great artist Henri Toulose-Lautrec, whose legs were badly mishappen and shortened by an accident early in his life leaving him basically a midget. His frustration at his appearance, and unattractiveness to women, forever scarred his short life that was curtailed by drink and other excess. Jose Ferrer was superb as this tortured yet brilliant soul; Ferrer also played expertly Henri's powerful father descended from French nobility.
"Moulin Rouge" began with a long scene in the club itself filled with dancing, exciting music, beautiful women, good friends,and lots of drink. The sets and costumes and were colorful and beautiful. After about half an hour we follow Henri home - and we see him, alone, so short and vulnerable, walking all alone through the dark streets of Paris. The contrast was most effective. Such was the REALITY of Henri's life. The remainder of the film focused on his unsatisfactory relationship with a prostitute he befriends, along with flashbacks to his privileged wealthy childhood.
Perhaps the most emotional scene was at the end. With Henri dying in his bed his father there tells him that he is the first living artist to be honored by having his work displayed at the Louvre. As he appealed for forgiveness for his previously harsh treatment, saying "I didn't understand", all Henri's old friends from the Moulin Rouge, as spirits (or hallucinations), visited him.
Like with the fine movie about Van Gogh, "Lust for Life", this even better movie is not necessarily always true to historical fact, but it is a cinematic classic.
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