Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge would certainly be one of my Desert Island Movies. It irritated purists with its use of in-jokes and pastiche but quite frankly fuck ‘em. What’s not to like about Ewan McGregor cute as a button as the penniless playwright, Kylie Minogue as the Absinthe Fairy and the delicious Nicole Kidman descending to the dance floor of the Moulin Rouge on a trapeze to vamp her way through a mash-up of Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend and Material Girl? I adore it.
The Moulin Rouge comes a close second to Studio 54 as the nightclub of my dreams. I suspect the making of Moulin Rouge was a lot more fun than a night in Pigalle watching the tawdry, sweating La Gouloue (the Glutton) cocking her leg in a rough Cancan while the Prince of Wales tore a chicken leg and Nini Legs in the Air shook a tit or two. I don’t think Nicole Kidman ever looked as ravishing or had as much fun as she did as showgirl courtesan Satine, the Sparking Diamond.
I watched another old favourite, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, recently and the Vincente Minnelli musical means an awful lot to me not least for the title song. Of all Barbra Streisand’s musicals, On A Clear Day is the most charming. Long story short, kooky Brooklyn girl Daisy Gamble is engaged to a corporate stiff called Warren. She chain smokes and has to give-up so goes to a university doctor Marc Chabot (Yves Montand) who specialises in the power of hypnotism.
While under the influence, Daisy counts back to 1814 where she is the Regency adventuress Melinda Tentrees; the darling of the Brighton Pavilion who leaves her husband Lord Percy Moorpark for a feckless dandy who fills his breeches more than adequately. Melinda uses her powers to make Robert Tentreees’s fortune in insuring ships that she forsees will sink. Melinda is tried and executed for treason but not before Marc Chabot falls in love with Daisy Gamble’s past life.
The music is divine, Streisand’s performance as Melinda is truthful even if her cockney accent runs Dietrich’s a close second for awfulness. Beaton’s costumes for Melinda are an exaggeration of an exaggerated era in fashion and Arnold Scaasi’s swinging mini dresses and midi blouses for Daisy are crying out for a young fashion designer to copy print-for-print.
I love On A Clear Day because the love triangle between Melinda, Robert and Marc is actually secondary to the Daisy character finding herself. The original premise is that Marc cannot believe Melinda can live in such an empty vessel as Daisy Gamble. But as the film progresses he realise ‘Why Daisy! You’re a bloody miracle’. Not only can she predict when the phone is going to ring, Daisy talks to flowers and makes them grow. She’s a self-reliant if neurotic woman who beings trying to please her fiancé and ends ordering him ‘get off my roof!’
Neither does Daisy end-up with Marc Chabot though there is a promise that they meet in the next life. The film ends with Daisy saying goodbye to Marc and singing the anthem to self-awareness and the happiness it entails On A Clear Day You Can See Forever. I connect with On A Clear Day on many levels not least because I do believe we all have many lives within us: the life we had, the life we want, the lives we might even have lived and the life we’ve got.
Sometimes reincarnation is the only explanation. Sometimes the picture one has of one’s life is so out of focus with the one you’re in. Many times over the past four years I have thought I’m in the wrong play! This isn’t supposed to happen. I signed-up for Private Lives and I’m living One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I was Savile Row Barbie in public and mad Hellcat Sherwood in private. When those worlds collide it does get, in the words of Kay Thompson, ‘Troooooly messy’.
It is only in the last month that I’ve enjoyed an uninterrupted run of clear days and I have experienced happiness that I have not known since about 1992. As you know, I finally took off the gin goggles and have found life can be sweet again. Imagine that scene when Bambi is finding his feet and you’ve got the idea. Now my brain isn’t addled by booze, I am enjoying seeing my friends so much more. I can remember all the punchlines to gags, I’m quicker off the mark on quips with a sting and when I wake-up I remember the good times.
I think I’d lost all joy and hope in life. This sounds like a crass sentiment but the reality of it is truly horrible. Nothing impressed or amused me and there was quite frankly nothing left to live for. It was unimaginable to think a month ago that I would be lying in a new bed in Bloomsbury Towers on a Saturday morning laughing my ass off at Jim Broadbent performing Like A Virgin in Moulin Rouge and all dressed for my swim, sauna and steam. A month ago, I would have been facing forty-eight hours that could only be borne when viewed from the bottom of several bottles.
Anyway, never pays to dwell does it? The human mind is quite remarkable and decidedly kind. It can erase four years of misery in less than a month just because of a simple choice in life. That’s the magic that I believe in. So here’s to nothing but clear days. It is the nature of London life that it isn’t all going to be roses and blow jobs (a new favourite phrase my friend Shaun taught me) but I am ready to engage again and look forward to Act Three. Until next time…