Frustrated by a childhood injury that's deformed his legs, well-heeled fin-de-siècle painter Toulouse-Lautrec (Ferrer) immerses himself in the bawdy world of Montmartre's lively show club the Moulin Rouge, quaffing cognac and observing can-can acts while he works at his art. One night on his way home, he meets Marie (Marchand), a prostitute trying to ditch a vice cop, and the two begin a tumultuous relationship.
A box-office smash in 1952, Huston's engrossing biopic about the discordant life and loves of famed 19th-century painter Toulouse-Lautrec is drenched in colors taken from the artist's own palette. Shot mostly from the waist up, but acting on his knees, Ferrer does a remarkable job of conveying the gloomy painter, whose infirmity crippled his self-esteem but instigated his flagrant art. Zsa Zsa Gabor is captivating as entertainer Jane Avril, while composer Georges Auric's now-classic score gives "Rouge" a melancholy cast. Don't miss that flamboyant opening sequence: it's one of Huston's finest set pieces.