Updating the 'Red Curtain Trilogy' to DVD with much exhuberant fanfare

    Whether gaudy or visually appealing, Baz Luhrmann’s films have certainly found a way to split audiences like no director has done before. While some see his works as visually and creatively exciting, critics see his films as nothing more than overjuiced, excessive MTV music videos masquerading as cinema.

    From his obsessive use of ultra-rapid montages to the almost decadent use of flashy, outrageous colors in set design, Luhrmann’s films stands out like no other works. His three films, “”Strictly Ballroom,”” “”William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet”” and “”Moulin Rouge,”” are known as the Red Curtain Trilogy. All three films merge pop culture with the classics, resulting in unique expressions of emotions.

    All three works have been recently released on DVD and have fully utilized the latest technology to enhance the moviegoing experience. Luhrmann’s work is at times baffling and mind-blowing; DVDs have now given audiences a chance to go into the mind of this creative director.

    ‘Strictly Ballroom’

    This charming, plain-spoken indie from Australia was Luhrmann’s first experience in the directing chair. On a shoestring budget, the film doesn’t provide any of the glitz and glamour of his later films, but that doesn’t limit his use of ostentatious colors and makeup, which make this film stand out.

    Scott (Paul Mercurio) is a professional ballroom dancer who doesn’t play by the rules; his heart lies in flashy footsteps rather than the stated rules of dance. This causes his partner to abandon him. Then along comes Fran (Tara Morice), an amateur dancer who Scott ignores partly due to her unattractive looks. The two slowly form a relationship and soon Fran transforms from an ugly duckling to an attractive dancing partner.

    The video quality of the DVD is average, partially because the film was made without much money. The audio commentary demonstrates Luhrmann’s enthusiasm for his first work and there are many anecdotes about the film. His directing development visible in later films is clearly seen in the film. Also included is a throwback documentary on ballroom dancing in Australia.

    Although “”Strictly Ballroom”” is an early film, it sets the tone for Lurhmann’s later works. It provides a calm and pleasantness that will appeal to most audiences.

    ‘William Shakespeare’s Romeo+Juliet’

    Luhrmann has experience in theater and he uses that knowledge to adapt “”Romeo and Juliet”” to the screen. In a daring, risky move, Shakespeare’s dialogue is kept, but everything else — from the score to the setting, has been updated to a modern, high-energy viewpoint.

    The “”star-crossed”” lovers Romeo and Juliet are played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Although the story is well-known, the film goes into overdrive with a nonstop barrage of sensory overload. From making Mercutio a drag queen to staging the famous balcony scene in a swimming pool, the film takes a lot of creative risks at modernizing this classic story.

    The audio commentary is also excellent, providing many details on how Luhrmann made his decision on the making of the film. A lot is explained about the adaptation of Shakespeare’s work into a modern love tragedy. There are design and cinematography galleries that show stills of the production concepts and ideas. Many of them are outlandish and show the creativity (or tastelessness) of the film crew.

    The only major problem with the DVD is the lack of information and extras about the soundtrack. The film’s songs were a major hit with the public, but only two obscure music videos are provided. For those attracted to an outrageous update, the DVD is adequate for most tastes, but for those aghast by a desecration of Shakespeare, this is a film to avoid.

    ‘Moulin Rouge’

    The newest film by Luhrmann is one that has deeply divided audiences. The movie brings back the long-lost musical with a soundtrack drawn from modern-day pop artists such as Madonna, Fatboy Slim, Nirvana and Elton John, even though it’s set in the 1800s.

    With an extravagant setting and design production, “”Moulin Rouge”” is one of the most visually oriented films ever created. Only Luhrmann can so easily split viewers with not only a luscious set, but also with a musical alteration of beloved pop songs.

    Satine (Nicole Kidman) is the star performer at the Moulin Rouge, a “”gentleman’s”” nightclub in Paris. Christian (Ewan McGregor) is a young writer who falls for Satine. The two fall in love, only to be separated by a duke who is also in love with Satine.

    The “”Moulin Rouge”” DVD is one of the best discs on the market these days, regardless of viewers’ tastes for the film. There are the usual audio commentary and deleted scenes, but what sets this DVD apart is the quality and depth of the extras. From multiple angle shots of dance sequences to elaborate discussions on the set design, this two-disc set provides vast information on the film that no film lover could ever resist, even if the film is unappealing.

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