French Cancan (1955): Jean Renoir’s Tale Starring Jean Gabin and Francoise Arnoul

Jean Renoir’s French Cancan (a.k.a. “Only the French Can”), from his screenplay, based on an idea of André-Paul Antoine, is one of the master’s late luscious, most mature and alluring works, made right after his return from India.

Starring Jean Gabin, as an impresario who’s the director’s alter-ego, Françoise Arnoul, and Maria Felix,   Renoir’s film is an artist’s tribute to art.  Like other Renoir works, this one comments on the interplay between art and real life.  Ultimately, only the impresario knows that his creation (the Cancan and its dancers) is more important and long-lasting than his life of which it is an integral part.

Renoir offers a playful, colorful spectacle, done from the inside and benefiting from his experience.  It’s worth contrasting this picture with Renoir’s very last film, the 1972 “The Little Theatre of Jean Renoir” (which he narrates on camera) and John Huston’s 1952 art film, “Moulin Rouge.”