Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What is Tango? What is Rape? Moulin Rouge !!!

*** I was going to dedicate this post in loving memory of our fallen blogger (the wonderous) Jessica Gutierrez, but I realized the content is not something you want dedicated to you, so think of Jessica's loving memory (and how much I miss her sitting in the MacLabs at the moment) after reading this blog. ***

So yesterday while studying for Game Theory, I had Moulin Rouge playing in the background and I was listening to the script / music while studying. When I got to El Tango de Roxanne, I had to take a break since it's my favorite scene, and I watched the whole thing. It really got me thinking though, how many people really understand the true meaning of "the tango"? My guess is next to none.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's the video (ignore the first few seconds):

People watch this and go "oh that dance is really hott" or "it's sexy" or "it's fucking awesome" because it looks cool, and there's clearly a lot of passion and emotion in it. When you combine that with awesome dancing, and good video editing, it looks amazing. What people don't really understand though is how the tango relates to Satine's (Nicole Kidman) rape. Obviously, the dance is extremely violent, maybe saying something about it inevitable, that she is a prostitute and its her time to be herself and have sex for money. But that really isn't the point. If thats what you think the violent dance is about, simply telling Satine's story, then you're pretty much completely off.

All Ballroom dances tell a story: Rumba tells of Love, Samba is a carnival, Jive is a party. Tango is about RAPE. The story of tango is about a woman being raped. But don't think its about some weak old fashioned housewife being raped by her husband or a baron or something (think teen clubber being raped by rich handsome guy). The woman is STRONG! Part of why the tango is so strong is because the woman is fighting back. And boy is she giving him a him a fight for his money. The tango is a fight for power, supremacy, and control. Most people just don't understand that. The reason why the dance is so violent, is because both dancers are embodying violence, pain, suffering, and the need for survival.

But what does this really have to do with Satine and her rape, why is Baz Luhrman so brilliant in his writing and directing of this scene? Why is this my favorite scene in the movie? It has everything to do with Satine: the Tango is about a strong, proud, prostitute being raped. That is why the dance is both romantic and sexy, and disgusting and terrifying. It is telling the tale of a prostitute being raped by her client. But she doesn't like it, and fights back. This brings the constant turns, the strong tension, all the wips, and the insane, and ravashing dips.

Baz works perfectly as he masks this until the end. As the dance begins, it seems like it is about lust, passion, and jealousy: "She'll drive you MAD! At first it seems like the Unconscious Argentinean, played by Jacek Koman is retelling Christian's story: he loves a woman who he cannot have to himself and its driving him crazy. He tells of the passion betweem them, and how he loves her, but he will never know if she loves him back. As the Unconscious Argentinian says: "When love is for the highest bidder, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no love." It is driving Christian crazy ...

Baz even shifts to a scene with Satine and the Duke, where we see him buy her heart with "expensive gifts," and our heart pains for Christian. But as the dance continues, we realize he is jealous, to the point where he will crack. At nearly five minutes in, Christian has declared he cannot live without Satine, and you can see on her face she thinks the same. But this dance is not only about Christian's love and jealousy over a prostitute; it is also about the duke. This becomes very obvious when Satine sings out "Come what may, I will love you until my dying day."

At 5 and a half minutes in, the Tango truly comes out. When jealousy takes control, the fight begins. As the duke throws Satine on the floor, you watch as all the dancers are whipped around violently. You see the pain and fear in both Satine and the dancer's eyes. As she cries on the floor from fear, the men through their dancers to the floor: discarding them like garbage. As the woman crawl away terrified, the Duke rips off Satine's dress. As the Duke takes control of Satine, Caroline O'Connor becomes the object of the dancers' desires as they spin her around violently throwing her between one another.

Just when Satine has lost hope, as she lays on the bed fearing the Duke's wrath, and her imminent death, she is saved. But O'Connor continues the tail. As she is held in the unconscious Argentinians arms, hanging loosely, he cuts her throat. She drops to the floor, laying dead within a circle of dirty men.

Baz brilliantly mixes an ancient, misunderstood dance with a disgusting rape in one of my favorite musical numbers.


Jessica said...

I love it! Such an amazing song and dance. But please try and be quiet when we are in the Library. Especially the Crear. We got death glares.

Gal Oppenheimer said...

I was as quiet as I could be ... I left as soon as I got the phone call and such.

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