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Fashion in Film Festival: Moulin Rouge (1928)

More from the Fashion in Film Festival - this time Dupont's epic 1928 production of Moulin Rouge that first threw light on the iconic cabaret venue…

Written by Gavin Mackie

Illustration by Abi Daker

To celebrate The 3rd Fashion in Film Festival, a series of silent movies have been presented at screens around London. After a frolic of veiled dancing at Dreams of Darkness and Colour at the Barbican on Saturday, Tuesday night it was the turn of the BFI with a screening of the original Moulin Rouge, in its black & white silent glory.

Illustration by Katie Harnett

First presented in 1928, Moulin Rouge transports the viewer into the glamour of life on the Parisian stage and the often more stark reality off-stage that accompanies it. After meandering around Parisian night life, voyeuristically bringing the viewer vignettes of after-dark liaisons (including Toulouse Lautrec busy doodling music hall performances) the movie settles on the story of Moulin Rouge star Parysian. Her top billing and star rating at the Paris music hall does not save Parysian from her undoing, quite to the contrary, it is her profession that comes between her daughter, daughter’s fiancé and father-in-law to be. The film contrasts the harsh reality of Parysian’s life with the glitz of the showbiz world of which she is a part and cannot escape. ‘Madame, it’s time to go to the theatre’; the show must go on.

Illustration by Avril Kelly

The film reflects the sociology of the times – classism, elitism, personal relations, and of course the racy sub-culture of the music hall and Parisian bars are all brought to life. Some scenes were sure to be shocking for the 1920’s, not only the salacious stage performances, but the behviour of the music hall’s more well-to-do patrons, including an impromptu food fight at the show’s after party.

Illustration by Joana Faria

We went to see the fashion, and fashion there was. On stage, there was all the glamour to be found in Vegas, with revealing outfits bejewelled to the max. Off stage, Parysian continued the glamour, even when changing into something less revealing to play good mother-in-law. While lacking the full on sensory assault of its contemporary, given the allure of an old black & white silent, backed with a one-man musical accompaniment, the original Moulin Rouge can still arouse the senses.

Illustration by Karina Yarv

Read our review of Pink Narcissus at the Fashion in Film Festival here.


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2 Responses to “Fashion in Film Festival: Moulin Rouge (1928)”

  1. [...] I haven’t seen the film but I am guessing it must be glorious. For the complete review go to Amelia’s Magazine. [...]

  2. [...] is an illustration I did a little while back for Amelia’s Magazine, to accompany an article about fashion in film. I’ve always found the Moulin Rouge fascinating, so it was interesting to draw and I actually [...]

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