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French Cancan

Screening on Film
Directed by Jean Renoir.
With Jean Gabin, Maria Félix, Françoise Arnoul.
France/Italy, 1955, 35mm, color, 97 min.
French with English subtitles.
Print source: Institut Français

Renoir was eager to reteam with Jean Gabin, for the first time since La Bête humaine seventeen years earlier, for this musical film rooted in the legendary Montmartre of la belle époque, a neighborhood well-known to the director’s father and the other Impressionists. Set in a fictionalized Moulin Rouge—and made just two years after John Huston’s film—the story focuses on the efforts of the club’s owner to reintroduce the Cancan into Parisian nightlife. This was Renoir’s first film made in France since the 1939 debacle of The Rules of the Game, which hadn’t yet been rediscovered as a masterpiece. As the filmmaker put it, “French Cancan answered my great desire to make a film in a very French spirit and that would be…a nice bridge between me and French audiences. I felt that the public was very close to me, but I wanted to make sure.” The film’s success proved that he had been right.

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