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French Cancan

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Jean Renoir's 1955 musical, back in a newly struck Technicolor print that incorporates ten minutes of previously unseen footage. It's the easiest to like of Renoir's late films, full of color, movement, and romance, though it's one of the hardest to appreciate: the bright, frivolous surface seems to mask the deepest currents of Renoir's art. But the currents are there, in the way Renoir intermingles episodes from the ever-evolving love lives of his characters with the story of a belle epoque nightclub impresario (Jean Gabin) and his determination to transform an outmoded folk dance, the cancan, into the rage of Paris. The swirling spectacle of the dance (presented as crashing waves of color in the justly famous finale) finds its equivalent in the perfect fluidity of the romantic relationships, as Renoir suggests that fixity is the one quality most fatal to art and to love. With Francoise Arnoul and Maria Felix. (Music Box, Sunday, February 1)

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