7.5/10
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French Cancan (1955)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Musical | 16 April 1956 (USA)
This comedy drama from Jean Renoir chronicles the revival of Paris' most notorious dance as it tells the story of a theater producer who turns a humble washerwoman into a star at the Moulin Rouge.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... Henri Danglard
... Nini
... Lola de Castro de la Fuente de Extremadura 'La Belle Abbesse'
Anna Amendola ... Esther Georges
... Baron Walter
... La Génisse
... Prince Alexandre
Gaston Gabaroche ... Oscar, le pianiste
Jacques Jouanneau ... Bidon
Jean Parédès ... Coudrier
Franco Pastorino ... Paulo, le boulanger
Michèle Philippe ... Eleonore
... Le Capitaine Valorgueil
... Barjolin
France Roche ... Beatrix
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Storyline

Henri Danglard, proprietor of the fashionable (but bankrupt) cafe 'Le Paravent Chinois' featuring his mistress, belly dancer Lola, goes slumming in Montmarte (circa 1890) where the then-old-fashioned cancan is still danced. There, he conceives the idea of reviving the cancan as the feature of a new, more popular establishment...and meets Nini, a laundress and natural dancer, whom he hopes to star in his new show. But a tangled maze of jealousies intervenes... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Eclair Lab digital restoration 2010


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

|

Language:

Release Date:

16 April 1956 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

French Cancan  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (1956)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The on-screen singer of "La complainte de la Butte" is not Cora Vaucaire (credited in the titles) as she was deemed not good-looking enough to appear on film, so Italian actress Anna Amendola was put in front of the camera and mimed to the song... See more »

Quotes

Henri Danglard: Do I look like Prince Charming? Only one thing matters to me - what I create.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Les échos du cinéma: Episode #1.35 (1961) See more »

Soundtracks

La Complainte de la Butte
(uncredited)
Music by Georges Van Parys
Lyrics by Jean Renoir
Performed by Cora Vaucaire and Jean Gabin
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"We must be mad to pay to see Nini's thighs"
15 January 2009 | by See all my reviews

I haven't yet been completely blown away by a Jean Renoir film. The closest candidate so far was the wonderful 'A Day in the Country (1936),' which unfortunately suffered the handicap of being unfinished. Even so, I find the director's films to be extraordinarily pleasant viewing, and I'd much sooner sit down for a Renoir than I would for, say, a Godard or Fellini film. 'French Cancan (1954)' is a completely pleasant, and entirely unpretentious, musical comedy that goes by so breezily that you're apt to forget that you're watching the work of France's most respected filmmaker. Less concerned with cultural satire than 'The Rules of the Game (1939),' the film is instead similar in tone to 'Elena and Her Men (1956),' a completely inconsequential piece of cinema that is nonetheless a lot of fun to watch. Both of these films were shot in exquisite Technicolor, of which Renoir takes full advantage, filling the frame with glorious costumes, colours and people.

Henri Danglard (Jean Gabin) is a respected theatre producer who lives the high life, despite relying upon financial backers to sustain his extravagant lifestyle. A charming chap, and convincingly debonair given his age, Danglard shares the company of the beautiful but temperamental Lola de Castro (María Félix), into whose bed many have attempted to climb (and probably with little resistance). When Danglard woos a pretty young laundry-worker, Nini (Françoise Arnoul), into dancing the cancan for him, Lola is overrun with jealousy, and all sorts of anarchy takes place amidst this romantic rivalry. Meanwhile, a handsome European prince (Giani Esposito) offers Nini his hand in marriage, but she's not willing to make such a dishonest commitment, more inclined to stay with Danglard, who inevitably plots to discard her as soon as his next promising starlet comes along. Jean Gabin, who had previously worked with Renoir in the 1930s, is terrific in the main role, overcoming his mature age to succeed as a potential lover.

It's interesting to compare Hollywood films of the 1950s with their European counterparts. Thanks to the Production Code, most American romantic comedies kept the romance almost entirely platonic, whereas here Renoir's characters speak of sex and adultery as though it is a perfectly acceptable practice. Even the adorable Françoise Arnoul, who occasionally reminded me of Shirley MacLaine, is treated as an openly sexual women, and not just because her character specialises in a dance designed purely to display as much leg as possible. Like many of Renoir's films, the characters themselves aren't clearly defined, and so it's difficult to form an emotional attachment. Indeed, only in the final act does Danglard come clean with the extent to which he romantically exploits his dance recruits, though even this moment is overshadowed by the premiere show of the Moulin Rouge. Perhaps it is through his caricatures that Renoir is making a quip about bourgeois French society – that they're all hiding behind fallacious identities and intentions. Or am I looking too far into this quaint musical comedy?


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