Jean Renoir CATHERINE de la ROCHE - Essay

CATHERINE de la ROCHE

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[French Cancan, the] story of some legendary show people and of the great show they put on, has been well told, but the overwhelming impression left by this picture is of a perfect, an enchanted evocation of the very spirit of showmanship. In La Grande Illusion and La Règle du Jeu, in The Southerner and The River, Jean Renoir, magnificently at his best, developed large themes. With French Cancan he has renewed his style, creating a masterpiece on a light theme, in which his wise and humorous perception is combined with new brilliance and charm. A charm that is very personal, for the inspiration of this film seems to be the fascinating charm for him of show folk and their world. And how marvellously he has caught it!…

[In French Cancan,] Jean Renoir has achieved a wonderful blend of stylisation and reality, of poetic expression and robust showmanship…. Unlike Le Carosse d'Or, in which Jean Renoir had already presented a larger-than-life story of show people, but without achieving unity of style, this film is of a piece. It repays study, as much for the original use of each of the cinema's component elements—acting, colour, sound, design—as for the success with which these and the stylistic variations have been integrated. Above all, it is a picture to see, without a critic's notebook, as a rare pleasure.

Catherine de la Roche, "Film Reviews: 'French Cancan'," in Sight and Sound (copyright © 1955 by The British Film Institute), Vol. 25, No. 2, Autumn, 1955, p. 85.