Two weeks before Australia's Nov. 26 release date, Moulin Rouge! director Baz Luhrmann, who's worked four years on the $130 million dollar production set in the Outback, still doesn't know what movie he's making. After a rough cut was recently screened for critics who hated the film's downer ending, the studio reacted by putting pressure on Luhrmann to alter Australia. Fox is more keen on recouping the film's massive budget with what it hopes is a traditional crowd-pleaser. It appears Luhrmann has already complied with their demands, but is Australia destined to die even if its lead characters don't?Reports from the Australian Sunday Telegraph were that critics blanched at the unhappy ending of the 3-hour epic, and overall reaction in the film's native country has been harsh. The film has already been plagued by the idea its nationalist angle will hurt foreign box office. Scrutiny about the film's ending aside, when you don't have a cut everyone is satisfied with this late in the process, how can you expect audiences to buy into it?
Luhrmann himself has voiced concerns about the film's overall quality as he tries to get it in shape for release before the Oscar deadline:
"The film still hasn’t, in a sense, come together. I like to work in such a way that I can be open to the evolution of the story and the world we’re living in. I shoot in a way that I can respond and evolve to the world I’m in and the film I’m feeling as it draws to its conclusion. So it’s a constant quest and journey – and that isn’t over."
I'm sure the studio was thrilled to hear that, and they've shown no confidence in this project at any point in the process despite denials they forced anything on the director, who has final cut. Luhrmann should focus on making his film, regardless of what Australian critics have to say. They're not the film's key audience, and with a period epic with musical elements set in the Outback that runs almost three hours, viewers need to stick around for the conclusion to be disappointed by it. If he wasn't so busy on the receiving end of being feted at the MoMA, perhaps he could get started on that.