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Jean Renoir's second film was this lavishly appointed adaptation of Emile Zola's novel Nana. Renoir does an admirable job retelling Zola's woeful tale of a covetous Parisian slum girl in purely visual terms. Hoping to escape her tawdry surroundings, Nana has an affair with high-ranking government official George Muffat. Instead of elevating herself to Muffat's level, however, Nana drags the poor man down to hers -- and in the end, both lives have been utterly destroyed. Catherine Hessling gives a stylized but effective performance in the title role. Taken to task for the over-elaborate set designs (by Claude Autant-Lara), which resulted in France's most expensive film to date, Jean Renoir merely explained that he was endeavoring to contrast the splendiferous lifestyle of Muffat and his friends to the shabby origins of the heroine. On an artistic level he succeeded, but Nana ended up costing way too much to ever post a profit, and it would be several years before Renoir would be entrusted with a big-budgeted film again. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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