A Movie A Day: Quint on CAN-CAN (1960) I think all conversations ought to be sung. It’s hard to quarrel with a melody.
Published at: Aug. 4, 2008, 1:04 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Frank Sinatra bridges us from yesterday’s VON RYAN’S EXPRESS to today’s musical based on Cole Porter’s CAN-CAN.
The flick starts out as a standard good artists pushing the envelope against an uptight society picture, but quickly turns into a love triangle.
Basically you have Sinatra as the boyfriend and lawyer for Shirley MacLaine who runs a risqué dance club in Montmartre that always has to step in and defend MacLaine and her dancers whenever they’re caught doing the Can-Can, a dance too sexual, apparently, and one that is banned.
Louis Jourdan plays a new judge who is trying to get the place shut down. If you’re a musical fan you’ll know him from GIGI or if you’re a genre nerd like me you’ll probably know Jourdan best as Dr. Arcane from SWAMP THING.
So, it was quite a surprise when the story of a new judge trying to shut down this nightclub morphed into new judge falls in love with dance hall owner and tries to woo her away from Sinatra.
I found it hard to connect with this movie. It doesn’t have the charm or successful musicals of this time period, like THE SOUND OF MUSIC or WEST SIDE STORY, although I enjoyed watching Sinatra, MacLaine, Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier in eye-popping Technicolor.
The problem isn’t the actors or the writing… or even the musical numbers. I quite liked “Live and Let Live” and “Let’s Do It,” actually. But even those didn’t feel staged in a memorable way.
There’s a trippy as hell ballet dance sequence at the end, set in the Garden of Eden with dancers wearing animal heads… Apparently bunnies and wolves danced together while Unicorns watched before Eve bit into the apple… It’s a long sequence that had me captivated, but I don’t know if it was in a good way. “What the fuck am I a watching” was going through my head, although I loved the lady as the snake slinking down the tree.
Anyway, for whatever reason I found it difficult to connect on a personal level with the film despite how beautiful it looked in scope Technicolor and the great charisma of all the leads.
Maybe it was the story itself. The love triangle is played for most of the 2 hours and 20 minute runtime, but when the ending comes they just drop the loser without any fanfare. It just kind of happens.
(Spoiler) And what can I say? Sinatra’s great, but I liked Jourdan more, so when MacLaine picks Sinatra at the end and Jourdan just kind disappears I was a little disappointed. Jourdan is a nicer guy, truly in love with MacLaine, his career and reputation be damned. Sinatra’s smooth, but less interesting. He doesn’t want to commit to marriage, he wants to fuck around… He even has a great line to MacLaine where he says something like “I’d rather love you than marry you,” which is obviously what MacLaine wants.
Now I can be cool with characters making a backwards wrong-ass decision in movies like this (Duckie getting dumped for Andrew McCarthy still pisses me off, though), but I guess I just don’t like how they handled it here. MacLaine just seems to feel bad for him and Jourdan disappears from the picture.
Final Thoughts: The film is too long, but has some charm. I’m afraid it’s not a very memorable movie, but while watching it I didn’t find myself squirming or checking my watch. It plays light and there’s some really fun innuendo (including a great subtle bit when Sinatra is asking MacLaine where exactly Jourdan kissed her and she says, “My lips” but her hands go down to her lap, covering her crotch for a second… maybe I’m just a filthy-minded bastard, but I’ll be damned if that wasn’t intentional), but I think it’s a movie that’ll probably dissolve out of my memory by the end of the week. I always felt like an observer while watching, not invested emotionally in any of the characters.