In the waning years of the French Second Empire, French prostitute Nana Coupeau rises from the streets to the heights of clandestine French society by virtue of her performance as the lead in La blonde Venus, a fictional operetta. While her performance is terrible, her sexual appeal and magnetism win over the audience and she becomes famous overnight. Author Émile Zola based the character of Nana on stories he heard about the operetta star Anna Judic.
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