A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Thursday, June 28, 2018

French Cancan (Jean Renoir, 1955)

Henri Danglard: Jean Gabin
Nini: Françoise Arnoul
Lola: Maria Félix
Esther Georges: Anna Amendola
Baron Walter: Jean-Roger Caussimon
La Génisse: Dora Doll
Prince Alexandre: Giani Esposito
Oscar: Gaston Gabaroche
Bidon: Jacques Jouanneau
Coudrier: Jean Parédès
Paulo: Franco Pastorino
Eleonore: Michèle Philippe
Le Capitaine Valorgueil: Michel Piccoli
Eugénie Buffet: Édith Piaf
Yvette Guilbert: Patachou

Director: Jean Renoir
Screenplay: Jean Renoir
Cinematography: Michel Kelber
Production design: Max Douy
Film editing: Boris Lewin
Music: Georges Van Parys
Costume design: Rosine Delamare

The Moulin Rouge is a kind of metonymy for the Parisian Belle Époque, that period of French culture that forms the core of Marcel Proust's fiction and represents an efflorescence of the arts before the disaster of World War I, which is why the cabaret has been the setting of so many movies, including at least half a dozen that bear its name in the title. So it's entirely fitting that Jean Renoir, whose father, the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, was so prominent a figure in the Belle Époque, should have chosen the Moulin Rouge as the setting for a film that marked his return to working in France after an exile that began in 1940. The central story of French Cancan is bogus: The Moulin Rouge was not founded by Henri Danglard, who is a made-up figure. But since he's played by Jean Gabin, the greatest of French movie stars, it doesn't really matter. Gabin gives a solidity to the character that few actors can muster. It's a lavish, riotously colorful movie, a heavily fictionalized treatment of the founding of the nightclub, and one of the best film musicals ever made. It's also a celebration of a certain kind of French insouciance about sex, a gleeful nose-thumbing at puritan moralizers.

No comments: