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Now I understand why the Nouvelle Vague was so necessary.
I waited a long time to see this adaptation of Zola's famous novel but was really disappointed by the slow pace, the stilted dialogue (badly subtitled as well, in the VHS tape I saw) and the unimaginative camera work. It's pretty clear that this is precisely the type of post-WWII studio film against which Truffaut and Godard rebelled. And thank God they did, because their work is so much more interesting than period potboilers like this one. Martine Carol is vivacious and charming, but with limited acting ability. To be fair, "Nana" is the type of actress who is renowned for her fabulous body and her bold display thereof, rather than for any kind of musical or dramatic skills. (Sound familiar, Hollywood?) Also, as a plus, the film is very frank about how Nana earns a living outside of her stage appearances, and how her entourage skims off her fees by providing either information or access. I found this candor refreshing since most Hollywood movies of this era are very coy about whoring. Think about the presentation of Jo Van Fleet in "East of Eden," for example. Charles Boyer plays the male lead here, a hypocritical aristocrat in the Emperor's employ, but it's an unsatisfying part. It's all about "Nana," and in the end, being the selfish little baggage she is, she would prefer it that way.
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