Nana                                  Zola & Renoir

The silent film concerts of the Prima Vista Quartet


Under the Second Empire, Nana, a mediocre theatre actress, performs in light plays, the ones that attract Parisian middle-class. Thanks to her conquests, she becomes an adored and wealthy courtesan; she therefore leaves the stage to become a kept woman. Some men will go so far as killing themselves in her name, while count Muffat goes broke and is disgraced just to satisfy her desire of luxury. Nana cheats on him and squanders his money.

Driven by a deep longing to get on the stage again, she joins the wild can-can at Mabille’s ball. However, fate is watching: stricken with smallpox, symbol of poetic justice, Nana dies, pursued by the memory of her victims.

Published in 1880, this 9th novel from the Rougon-Macquart of Emile Zola had several times been brought to the screen : since 1910 by the swedish director Kund Lumbye, then, after Renoir in 1926, by Dorothy Arzner in 1934, Christian-Jaque in 1955, Mac Ahlberg in 1970, Maurice Cazeneuve in 1981, Dan Wolman in 1983, and finally, Edouard Molinaro in 2001. Due in particular to Catherine Hessling's striking performance, Jean Renoir's adaptation remains today the most faithful to Zola's novel.

The strength of the story, its tragic dimension, and its timeless analysis of characters (demi-monde women’s fascination for money and luxury has not decreased with the Second Empire) explain that rich posterity in the seventh art which has taken over, with predilection, this sweet and deadly moral tale. Regarded as his very first real feature film, Renoir already shows a great formal skillfulness which announces his future works. Even though it won a critical success, his « Nana » was a financial failure, forcing him to sell some of the paintings his father, Auguste Renoir, had left him. He could then pay back his debts, considering that « Nana » had costed him a million francs (64 million euros today).

When Nana has been released, because of a lack of funds, it didn’t benefit from an original composed score : Renoir assigned to Maurice Jaubert the task to create a compilation pieces of the classical repertoire. In order to create that film-concert, the Prima Vista Quartet will be joined by a piano – emblematical instrument of the Second Empire parisian saloons – to interpret in live this musical score which won’t deny its integration in modernity while  remaining true to its composer credo since two decades : serve the movie but not use it. The pianist Carmen Martínez-Pierret, together with the musicians of the quartet, will take up the challenge of this three-hour film-concert.

An event and a feat not to be missed !

The film is presented with a 15 minutes intermission.

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the movie

director  Jean Renoir

year  1926

duration  2h47

composer  Baudime Jam (2019)


11 October, 2019

The brilliant film adaptation of a literary masterpiece


8th December, 2019


23rd January, 2020