Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

French Can-Can

FRENCH CAN-CAN is a delicious pleasure from 1954 .... a visual delight by a major storyteller. 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.

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...

Jean Gabin is in his element, Maria Felix is his fiery spitfire, and Francoise Arnoul is the new dancer she is jealous of. Edith Piaf appears too for a few moments, and sings. 1890s Paris is perfectly caught here, one imagines. The Moulin Rouge of course has fascinated movie-makers: John Huston's marvellous MOULIN ROUGE in 1953 as lensed by Oswald Morris; and Baz Luhrmann's 2001 version - theres also the 1960 film from 20th Century Fox: CAN CAN without a shred of period feel as Sinatra and McLaine go through their paces, with some energetic dance numbers. 
Renoir's version is simply wonderful, particularly that long dance sequence at the end, as Gabin dances the steps too backtage. Great movies just remain timeless. We  will have to return to Renoir's THE GOLDEN COACH from 1952 with Magnani, and finally see ELENA ET LES HOMMES with Ingrid Bergman in 1956, and his THE RIVER set in India and of course his earlier 1930s classics ...


  1. Michael: Love this. And I'd like to put a word in for the singular Philippe Clay, who is memorable both in this film and Quine's "Bell, Book & and Candle," where he performs that most unusual French number in the club, Zodiac, replete with patented Clay moves. -J

  2. Of course, I have been watching BELL BOOK & CANDLE again lately, as it gets screened here a lot, I wondered where I had seen him before ...

  3. Yes, it is a glorious film, nice to have it on DVD. The entire cast is glorious as is the beautiful choreography.