June 01, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

A whirling fantasia of rococo kitsch, set in the legendary Paris nightclub circa 1900. The spectacle of pop songs employed in a period setting speaks to us in a new and galvanizing way, but the movie also seems to have been made by a madman with a palm buzzer. The director, Baz Luhrmann, smashes all sense of time and space, so that the floor of the Moulin Rouge comes off as a bad-trip version of Studio 54 crossed with the Star Wars cantina. As the courtesan Satine, Nicole Kidman has an accomplished whiplash-dominatrix style but not, perhaps, the eccentric dynamism of a true star. She never quite connects with Ewan McGregor, who, as her bohemian lover, strikes the only notes of real emotion in the movie.

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