by guest writer
French Cancan (1955) forms, together with The Golden Coach (1954) and Elena et les hommes (1956), the “theater trilogy homage” paid by Jean Renoir to a dying art. Renoir’s return to France was delayed for some years, until he was offered the project French Cancan and the shooting was scheduled to start in the autumn of 1954. The subject, as one might expect, deals with the birth of the Moulin Rouge back in late 19th century Paris. Henri Danglard (Jean Gabin) is the impresario who comes with the idea of developing a fashionable new dance hall, like no other. He is the powerful soul who will bring his dream to reality, no matter what the costs are. Gabin’s persona was more than appropriate for the role and his character will enthrall with every line. I can not forget the way he lives every beat of music in the backstage, on the opening night, when the emotions don’t allow him to watch the performance live.
Renoir’s movie stands the test of time as being, probably, the best film about the entertainment scene. The artistic view the director had about the whole business is simply unique. Michel Kelber is the cinematographer responsible for the delightful feast of images that form this film. The colours are so vibrant and so well chosen that you feel Jean’s affinity to his father’s Impressionist talent.
photo: still from the film, captured for Classiq from this BFI edition | credit: Franco London Films, Jolly Film