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Film: French Cancan
A 1954 romantic comedy/musical from Jean Renoir, depicting the Hollywood History creation of Paris' Moulin Rouge and its signature dance.


The film provides examples of:

  • Amusing Injuries: Danglard's choreographer demonstrates how she was once an acclaimed cancaneuse — and promptly throws her back out.
  • Bar Brawl/Escalating Brawl/Catfight: A truly gaudy donnybrook erupts at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Moulin Rouge, when Nini and Lola, who have been vying jealously for Danglard's affections, exchange insults, then rapidly escalate to clothes-tearing and hair-pulling. Partisans of both women and spectators who aren't really on either side but are just keen for a nice big fight quickly join in.
  • Big Entrance: The climactic cancan performance begins with the dancers surging through the crowds, rappeling down ropes into patrons' laps, and bursting through a wall poster. Nini makes her entrance by leaping off the band's elevated bandstand into a rescue blanket.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Danglard may hop from lover to lover, but he behaves like a perfect gentleman with each.
  • Chorus Girls
  • Costume Drama/Costume Porn/Gorgeous Period Dress
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Paolo.
  • Dance Party Ending/Sudden Musical Ending: The climactic cancan performance takes up the film's final nine minutes. And it is awesome.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Danglard and Nini first visit his choreographer, the dancers are lounging around the studio in their underwear.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Everyone. Paolo concedes that he's lost Nini forever but settles for attentions of her best friend, Lola accepts a marriage of convenience offer from one of Danglard's financiers, Danglard has another hit on his hands and is scoping out his next protoge/mistress, and Nini realizes her destiny is show biz after all...
  • Europeans Are Kinky: Well, certainly kinkier than Eisenhower America from that time period. While TV married couples like Lucy and Ricky were shown sleeping in separate beds, Renoir's characters are having casual (and often guilt-free) sex left, right, and center.
  • Everything Sounds Sexier in French: Danglard names the revised dance "the French Cancan" to appeal to Anglophilic audiences.
  • Femme Fatale: Lola.
  • Gay Paree/The Gay Nineties
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Nini's reaction to Lola (and vice versa). It gets worse when, on opening night, she spots Danglard flirting with another woman. She locks herself in her dressing room and threatens to derail the entire show. Followed by Danglard's "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
  • Hollywood History: Renoir made no bones that the film wasn't meant to be 100% historically accurate, but at that time (late 19th century), cancan dancers were mostly semi-professional solo performers. The cancan didn't become the highly-choreographed line dance we know it as until the early 20th century.
  • The Ingenue: Nini.
  • Kavorka Man: Danglard's mistresses are consistently a couple of decades younger than he is. On the other hand, Danglard is played by the handsome, urbane Jean Gabin...
  • Ms. Fanservice/Foreign Fanservice: Francoise Arnaul as Nini and Maria Felix as Lola.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Paolo's rage at Danglard for stealing Nini from him doesn't subside until nearly the end of the movie.
  • Edith Piaf: Has a small role as a singer Danglard recruits for the Moulin Rouge.
  • Of Corset Hurts/Of Corsets Sexy: While Danglard is entertaining his financiers, Lola strolls in wearing her corset (and not much else) and requests Danglard help lace it tighter. He's more than happy to oblige.
  • Opera Gloves: This movie being set in La Belle Epoque, long gloves are very much in evidence as accessories to women's formalwear and as a part of the dancers' outfits.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack/Standard Snippet: The climactic performance of the cancan rounds up the usual suspects, including Offenbach's "Galop Infernale," chunks of Lehar's "Merry Widow," and the English music-hall standard "Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Aye."
  • Scenery Porn: Visually, the film is a tribute to Renoir's father, the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The vibrant Technicolor doesn't hurt, either...
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: Knowing that she's about to become Danglard's mistress, Nini gives up her virginity to Paolo just to get it over with. He, of course, now considers her his One True Love.
  • Slumming It: Danglard, Lola, and their rich friends check out a low-life dive in Montmarte — and he gets the inspiration for his next production AND girlfriend.
  • Spurned Into Suicide: Baron Walter. He survives.
  • Stage Mom: Nini's mother. When she finds out how much stage performers earn, she all but shoves her daughter into Danglard's arms.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Paolo.
  • Stocking Filler/Panty Shot/Show Some Leg/Zettai Ryouiki (Grade A): Wouldn't be a proper cancan without 'em...
  • The Cast Showoff: Philip Clay as Casimir. Arriving at Danglard's as a process server, he is so enthralled to be in the presence of the great showman that he promptly demonstrates his singing and contortionist skills. An impressed Danglard hires him on the spot.
  • The Musical
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Danglard reads Nini the riot act after her Green-Eyed Monster moment jeopardizes the Moulin Rouge's opening night. Basically: she's in show business now, the show's bigger than anyone's petty jealousies, and he's always going to be on the make, so get used to it.
  • Training Montage/Workout Fanservice: Nini and the other dancers progress from howling in agony as they first attempt their kicks and splits, to flinging themselves around the dance floor with wild abandon.


FantômasFrench FilmsFrontier(s)
The EgyptianFilms of the 1950sThe Glenn Miller Story
The Adventures of Antoine DoinelRoger Ebert Great Movies ListThe Godfather
Frances HaCreator/The Criterion CollectionThe Freshman

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