French Cancan

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French Cancan
Frenchcancan poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJean Renoir
Produced byLouis Wipf
Written byJean Renoir
André-Paul Antoine
StarringJean Gabin
Françoise Arnoul
María Félix
Music byGeorges Van Parys
CinematographyMichel Kelber
Edited byBorys Lewin
Distributed byGaumont Film Company
Criterion Collection
Release date
9 April 1955
Running time
104 minutes
Box office4,075,306 admissions (France)[1]

French Cancan (also known as Only the French Can) is a 1955 French-Italian musical film written and directed by Jean Renoir and starring Jean Gabin and Francoise Arnoul. Where Renoir's previous film Le Carosse d’or had celebrated the 18th-century Italian commedia dell’arte, this work is a homage to the Parisian café-concert of the 19th century with its popular singers and dancers. Visually, the film evokes the paintings of Edgar Degas and the Impressionists, including his own father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir.[2] It also marked his return to France and to French cinema after an exile that began in 1940.[3]

It was shot at the Joinville Studios in Paris. The film's sets were designed by the art director Max Douy.


Set in 1890s Paris, Henri Danglard is the owner of a cafe, which features his mistress, Lola, as a belly dancer. Losing money, Henri finds himself in Montmartre and finds that the old-fashioned can-can is still being performed there. Inspired, Henri comes up with a new business scheme that aims to revive the can-can, featuring a new dancer, Nini, a laundress he meets by chance.


Critical reception[edit]

François Truffaut reviewed the film in Arts magazine in May 1955 and called it a milestone in the history of colour of cinema. "Every scene is a cartoon in movement [-] Madame Guibole's dance class reminds us of a Degas sketch." Whilst Truffaut did not consider it as important a film as Rules of the Game or The Golden Coach, he nevertheless praised it as an example of Renoir "as vigorous and youthful as ever." This affirmative response was not shared by Bernard Chardère however, writing in Positif, who criticised the music, the sets, even the final cancan scene. "The phoniness of the rue Lepic, with its vegetable carts and piles of artificial stones is painful to look at. The actors act. The audience gets bored. The dance rehearsals are Degas all right, but the kind that appears on Post Office calendars."[6]

The film received the Grand Prix de l'Academie du Cinéma in 1956.[7] Roger Ebert added French Cancan to his "Great Movies" list in 2012.[8]


  1. ^ "French CanCan". Box Office Story.
  2. ^ Beranger, Jean; Garey, Howard B. (1956). "The Illustrious Career of Jean Renoir". Yale French Studies (17): 27–37. doi:10.2307/2929115. JSTOR 2929115.
  3. ^ Bergstrom, Janet (1996). "Jean Renoir's Return to France". Poetics Today. 17 (3): 453–489. doi:10.2307/1773418. JSTOR 1773418.
  4. ^ Robertson Wojcik, Pamela (2001). Soundtrack available: essays on film and popular music, Duke University Press. p. 137. ISBN 0-8223-2800-3
  5. ^ Crosland, Margaret (2002). A cry from the heart: the life of Edith Piaf, Arcadia. ISBN 1-900850-50-8
  6. ^ Truffaut,Arts, May 4, 1955, and Chardere in Positif, quoted in French New Wave, by Jean Douchet, p.27
  7. ^ Faulkner, Christopher (1979). Jean Renoir, a guide to references and resources. Boston, Mass: G.K. Hall & Company. p. 33.
  8. ^ Roger Ebert. French Cancan May 31, 2012

External links[edit]