Watching films at Memorial Library: ‘French Cancan’

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One thing’s for certain: mood matters, especially when watching a film on your laptop in a darkened cubicle at Memorial Library. I was apparently in no condition this afternoon to watch and appreciate Jean Renoir’s French Cancan (1954); I couldn’t wait for the film to end, despite occasionally finding myself smacked in the face by a really striking Technicolor composition. Renoir is a director whose work certainly demands respect and at least a measure of admiration, yet his visual style and his narratives always seem like manifestations of a cheery, resilient sensibility, even when dealing with thematic anvils like betrayal and mortality, and I just can’t relate to that every time I sit down to watch one of his films. I typically don’t think of myself as a connoisseur of cinematic angst, but my favorite Renoir is one of his least happy-go-lucky (though still quite triumphant): La Grande illusion (1937). One thing I can’t deny, no matter how pissy I’m feeling, is that the man has a mind for mise-en-scène like you wouldn’t believe.

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