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Film / French Cancan

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I see England, I see France...
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Chivalrous Pervert: Danglard may hop from lover to lover, but he behaves like a perfect gentleman with each.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • High-Class 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.
  • 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.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Paolo's rage at Danglard for stealing Nini from him doesn't subside until nearly the end of the movie.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stage Mom: Nini's mother. When she finds out how much stage performers earn, she all but shoves her daughter into Danglard's arms.
  • "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: 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.