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France 1954
Directed by
Jean Renoir
100 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

French Cancan

Like all good musicals, Jean Renoir’s French Cancan is colourful, stylized and bursting with energy.

One of the director’s favourite actors, Jean Gabin, plays Danglard, an impresario who founds the Moulin Rogue and makes the cancan Paris's most famous attraction after the Eiffel Tower. In terms of narrative structure the film shares much with the Hollywood backstage musical with the usual assortments of false starts, set-backs and seeming defeat before the inevitably triumphant finale, a rousing performance of the titular dance. 

With beguiling art direction and costume design and an elegance and intelligence that makes it distinctively French, and with Renoir’s fine mise-en-scène which has an evident debt to Lautrec’s iconic images and Marcel Carné’s classic behind-scenes film, Les Enfants Du Paradis (1945), this is artistically a good cut above most Hollywood fare.  Gabin is, as ever, a compelling presence as Danglard, whilst Maria Felix as his temperamental erstwhile lover and Françoise Arnoul as Nini, the laundress who catches his eye, are attractive embellishments. Edith Piaf appears briefly singing a number as part of cavalcade of contemporary singers bringing the French music hall days back to life.

DVD Extras: Audio Commentary by Anna Dzenis and Rick Thompson, La Trobe University.

Available from: Madman




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