This Friday, the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee will screen French Cancan, Jean Renoir’s vibrant reimagining of belle epoque Paris. Inspired by the life of Moulin Rouge founder Charles Zidler, this 1955 musical comedy tells the story of a cabaret impresario (played by the great Jean Gabin, in his fourth collaboration with Renoir) caught between two lovers, a working-class showgirl and an Egyptian belly dancer. A highlight from Renoir’s late-career work, the film is the first he made in France after a long period of exile in the U.S., and its many pleasures—including a cameo by Edith Piaf and dazzling cinematography that recalls the impressionism of the director’s own father, Pierre-Auguste Renoir—showcase a master reveling in the artifice of his medium. As Andrew Sarris wrote in the liner notes for our edition, French Cancan “bursts out again and again with lyrical explosions of color, vitality, and sensuality.”
Movie lovers in Milwaukee can enjoy this Technicolor gem on 16 mm when it plays tomorrow at the University’s Union Cinema. For those who aren’t in the area, the film is available in our series Lions in Winter, a celebration of great auteurs in their twilight years, streaming now on the Criterion Channel.