I bow to nobody in my admiration of Jean Renoir, a director who was seemingly able to turn out masterpieces with startling regularity prior to his sojourn in Hollywood, but I approached this - the film that marked his return to France, with some trepidation. The subject didn't seem to hold much appeal to me. But, of course I should have trusted Renoir. I found the film totally captivating. It is light, frothy and funny. It tells the (fictional) story of the entrepreneur who opened the Moulin Rouge and introduced the Can Can to the world. Jean Gabin (who replaced Charles Boyer prior to shooting) has just the right of sophisticated charm and Francois Arnoul is delightful as the laundry girl he selects to be his new star much to the consternation of her fiance and Gabin's mistress (played by the statuesque and beautiful Mexican star Maria Felix). To be honest the songs are not memorable except for the one sung in the finale although earlier in the film there is a cameo by the great Edith Piaf. The film does score with its dance scenes - a delightful one near the beginning when Gabin and Arnoul meet and the wonderfully exuberant and raucous final can can number. The scene where the girls are training and limbering up (courtesy of Degas) for the Can Can are great fun. Viewed today it is innocent fun but on its original release outside France the sexual swapping that goes on and some of the dialogue was considered very racy. The film has now been fully restored. On the BFI DVD there is an interesting documentary about the film which points out the similarities between Renoir himself and the character played by Gabin.
|French Can Can|
073 THE SUSPICIONS OF MR. WHICHER (2012) Directed by James Hawes ***
Based on Kate Summerscale's best seller this tells the story of the infamous Road Hill House murder of 1860 and the efforts of ace Scotland Yard detective Jack Whicher to prove his suspicions as to the identity of the murderer of 3 year old Savill Kent. Although fact rather than fiction the film is a classic Victorian murder mystery both in its settings and its characters. While the restraints of running time have led to the writer and director somewhat simplifying the investigation the film sticks to the basic facts. A nice performance by Paddy Considine as Whicher (who seems to live in his overcoat!).
|The Suspicions of Mr.Whicher|
074 THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA (1973) Directed by Robert Kjellin *
075 THE RAVEN (2009) Directed by Uli Lommel *