Can-Can Walter Lang

Can-Can Walter Lang
One of Cole Porter’s less remembered shows becomes one of Hollywood’s most-middling musicals in this lavish number from 1960. It’s the turn of the 19th century and Montmartre café proprietress Shirley MacLaine persists in performing the salacious title dance on her stage; this earns her the ire of the authorities, which deem such brazen displays obscene. Mostly, however, the movie places her between the hearts of two men: philandering lawyer Frank Sinatra (who’s miscast) loves only her despite his straying ways, while straight-arrow judge Louis Jourdan has his carefully repressed nature shattered by her lovely presence. All this is merely an excuse to indulge in some stereotypical French-isms, including womanisers as adorable teddy bears, and wheeling out Maurice Chevalier to act indulgent, but that could be forgiven if it came up with some snap and life. And on that score, it’s only halfway there. Though the design elements are unimpeachable (the costumes even copped an Oscar nomination), Walter Lang’s direction doesn’t seem to know what it’s got and manages to dampen the "oh, wow” factor with some apathetic compositions and limp renditions of Porter’s tunes. Plus, the plot, reportedly trimmed down from the original musical, could use a few more characters to spruce up the main narrative line. (And really, Frank Sinatra as a Frenchman?) Still, half a musical is better than no musical at all and apart from a hugely embarrassing Adam and Eve ballet sequence, Can-Can manages to keep your attention even if it fails to blow you away. Extras include three interesting but uncritical featurettes on the making of the film, Cole Porter himself and the show’s book writer (Abe Burrows), some picture galleries, a restoration comparison and an isolated music score. (Fox)