Wednesday, October 1, 2008

French Cancan (1954) Film Review

Plot Summary - French language backstage musical, directed by Jean Renoir. In 19th century Paris at a nightclub in Montmartre we meet Nini - pretty-in-pink laundress who loves to dance the Cancan. A group of the well-heeled set have arrived going "slumming for thrills", so-to-speak, and along with them is Danglard (Jean Gabin), owner of the Paris nightclub "The Chinese Screen", who spots lovely little red-headed Nini as a potential prospect to dance in one of his shows. Next day he heads into Montmartre where he sees Nini and asks her to become a dancer - and soon he's sold his first club for a down-payment on the Montmartre club, where he plans to put on a new version of the French Cancan at his newly renovated establishment, renamed the "Moulin Rouge". Jealousy, money troubles, and the like slows down the progress in opening the new club, and meanwhile Nini romances and juggles three men - 1. her neighborhood boyfriend Paolo - a brooding, jealous youth who works in a bakery, 2. Alexandre, a rich, handsome prince who is madly in love with her, and 3. Danglard himself, her older man - and somewhat of a Svengali to her as he tries to mold her into a star.

Review - This film, shot in Technicolor, is a lavish and lush production - a vividly colorful and wonderfully atmospheric portrayal of the opening of the famous Moulin Rouge in Paris, literally every scene looking like a Toulouse-Lautrec or other Impressionist painting. The scenes with the woman drinking Absinthe at a small cafe table especially reminded me of one particular painting, "L'Absinthe (In a Cafe)" by Degas. The art direction for this film is expertly done, the costumes and gowns are really gorgeous. Scenes where the group of girls are being selected and then learning and practicing their Cancan dances while dressed in pantaloons and black tights are fun to watch and the big Cancan finale is absolutely wonderful - wild, brightly colored, terrific fun. An excellent, pretty-to-look-at film, and just a touch bawdy. The DVD I saw of this was from the Criterion Collection and the print looked really nice. Rating - 9/10 stars

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