The irony in a way is that Messiaen used this great romantic organ for his most modern experiments. For Messiaen, this was a great sort of sonic paintbox, if you like, and he would come here and experiment with the extraordinary sounds that he could conjure out of this amazing instrument. [more inside]
France has a new president. With 51.9% of the second-round vote, François Hollande has beaten Nicolas Sarkozy to become the first Socialist president of France since 1995. In his victory speech, Hollande declared that "austerity is not inevitable," but international business interests have already started rumbling about Hollande's plans for higher taxes on the rich and large-scale public sector investment. The change in power is to be effected in next ten days, with Hollande scheduled to appear at the G8 and NATO summits on May 19 and 20.
Heavily influenced by samurai films from film makers such as Akira Kurosawa, French/Burkinabe filmmaker Cédric Ido produced a short award winning film, Hasaki Ya Suda (The Three Black Samurai) set in the future. Its synopsis reads: It is 2100. In the world engulfed in chaos and war whose residents are consumed by terrible hunger, the last fertile land became the subject of fierce battles. Three warriors: noble Wurubenba (Jacky Ido), Shandaru (Cedric Ido), who wants to avenge his father’s death, and Kapkaru (Min Man Ma) craving for power, will face one another in a fight for life and death. Watch the full 25-minute Hasaki Ya Suda short film (available only with French subtitles at the moment) or the 1 minute teaser. Interview with Cedric in English.
"The Threat to Proust" by Roger Shattuck: When Proust’s novel fell into the public domain in 1987, three Paris publishing houses were ready with new editions that had been in preparation for several years. They all carry the same basic 3,000-page text with few variations. The differences lie in packaging and presentation. Laffont-Bouquins chose to publish three fat volumes prefaced by elaborate historical and biographical materials. Garnier-Flammarion produced ten pocket-sized volumes competently edited by Jean Milly. The new Pléiade edition, published by the original copyright holder, Gallimard, made the boldest, most ambitious, and most expensive bid to claim the market. In a combination of editorial, literary, and commercial decisions, Gallimard proposed to influence the way we read Proust and, to some degree, the way we approach all great literary works. [more inside]
Incredibox v2.0 has been released. A free Flash-based looping animated beatbox of FUN! In French and English. Previously on MeFi, and a direct link to v1.0.
Files have been released showing that the MI5 investigated Charlie Chaplin's origins at the request of the FBI, attempting to check claims that besides being a communist, he might be Jewish, and/or French. His life story by his own account has him born in London, but no birth certificate has been found and last year evidence emerged that he might in fact have been born in a gypsy camp.
Last year it was Amy Chua, Tiger Mother (previously on mefi). This year, Paula Druckerman has written Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, inspired by a trip to a coastal town when her daughter had temper tantrums and French parents didn't. French kids eat the same food as their parents, and aren't constantly snacking. And "when French friends visited [...] the grownups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves." It's about patience -- let the kids cry it out a bit, let them learn how to play alone instead of hovering. And perhaps obsess a little less -- the French don't even obsessively buy books about how to parent. Wall Street Journal article, and video interview by WSJ's Gary Rosen.
Le Blues De Memphis — behind the scenes at STAX & FAME Recording Studios (1969) and Hollywood Blues, a 1969 Hollywood Recording Session. Just a sample of the vintage 50s, 60s & 70s music, movies, microcode and high-speed pizza delivery at Bedazzled.tv. [sacré bleu]
Both an ingeniously choreographed crime film and a moral drama influenced by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Pickpocket marks the apotheosis of Bresson's stripped-down style. There’s little or no psychological realism or conventional drama at work in Martin La Salle’s portrayal of a master thief who plies his trade at the Gare de Lyon and easily outwits the cops who seek to ensnare him. See it once to appreciate the spare elegance of the pickpocketing scenes, and then a second time to appreciate how subtly Bresson accomplishes the story of a man’s self-willed corruption, his liberation through imprisonment and his redemption through love, all in less than 80 minutes.
Last week, the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, struggling with numerous injuries, underperforming stars, and a 13-11-7 record, fired head coach Jacques Martin. They replaced him with Randy Cunneyworth, the head coach of their farm team in Hamilton, Ontario. Cunneyworth is a former NHL defenseman and a blue-chip coaching prospect, but there's one problem: he doesn't speak French. [more inside]
Here is the pilot episode of Les Mondes Engloutis (Part 2), a French animated sci-fi/fantasy televison series from 1985. Here is its iconic theme song. In English it translates into "The Sunken Worlds," but English-speakers know it better as Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. More information can be found on Tripod fansite The Lost Archives of Arkadia. [more inside]
Reading Blaise Cendrars is like stepping into another universe. His fiction is unlike anything else I've ever read. His poetry influenced the mighty Guillaume Apollinaire and helped shape the face of modernism. But it is his mockery of biographical detail and the very notion of literature that fascinates me the most. If, like me, you're not a fan of autobiography, then Blaise Cendrars is the memoirist for you.
Birdy Nam Nam is four f*cking guys, named for a reference from the 1968 movie The Party. They are a quartet of French turntablists, consisting of Crazy B, DJ Pone, DJ Need, and Little Mike. They've spun solo and together at the 2002 DMC competitions, where they took the team championship title. In 2005, they released an album made from turntable-manipulated samples, but they weren't studio-only tracks. They were also performed live, though some tracks featured additional live musicians. A 2007 live album followed, keeping the same over-all turntablism sound as their first album. Their second album was largely produced by French produceder/DJ Yunksek, and the sound changed accordingly into an album of delightful French dance music, but they kept (generally) to the turntables to create their songs. The band has released their third album, now working with Para One, another French producer/DJ. Their sound has gone on a slightly new path, with another bizzare music video to accompany their sound. [more inside]
Food Fight: Does Healthy Food Have to Be More Expensive? In which the blog Get Rich Slowly chronicles an argument about nutrition vs cost and then invites readers to chime in.
The French romantic thriller “Diva” dashes along with a pellmell gracefulness, and it doesn’t take long to see that the images and visual gags and homages all fit together and reverberate back and forth. It’s a glittering toy of a movie... This one is by a new director, Jean-Jacques Beineix... who understands the pleasures to be had from a picture that doesn’t take itself very seriously. Every shot seems designed to delight the audience. - Pauline Kael, 1982 [more inside]
In 1989, invited to an open air theatre, late at night, I first experienced the 6 hour long screening of Peter Brook's Mahabharata, a much revered Hindu epic which includes the complete Bhagavad Gita as a central part of its narrative. Brook's multiracial casting and innovative treatment received criticism yet its impact has been acknowledged anyone who sat through the 9 hour play, the 6 hour TV serialization or only the 3 hour DVD. [more inside]
It's the late 1970s, you're in France, and you're not quite sure what this whole Star Wars hype is about. Let René Joly tell you about it. If your French isn't so good, someone was kind enough to overlay a translation in English, of course in the Star Wars Crawl style. If you can't find the original record from 1977, you can also hear the b-side: Enfant de l'univers (French lyrics). More French Star Wars? Behold: a dance spectacular on French TV (previously). If you like your cheese 100% American, check out the Donny and Marie Star Wars musical number, with very some special guests. For a little less cheese, and a bit more swing: Darth Vader and his jazz combo. [more inside]
Mortys. (Vimeo) A short, animated film in French with English subtitles. Also on YouTube and DailyMotion [more inside]
Pierre Bonnard died in 1947, after a lifetime of producing a great many intense and beautiful paintings, in keeping with his philosophy of domestic bliss, idealised and frozen in time if not realised in real life. A calm and intelligent man, he pursued his purpose doggedly and left behind an enduring legacy of visual joy. Surely as great an achievement as any painter could wish for. [more inside]
Batman: Delivrance a french video (with subtitles) about the return of Batman from retirement featuring special guest: Wolverine.
After Kad & Olivier sign off and the Satisfaction production logo fades, viewing audiences are oftentimes treated to a cold open of an empty talk show set... one that quickly becomes the impromptu dance floor for a shameless Frenchman making an absolute giddy fool of himself while lip-syncing pop songs alongside a menagerie of... wait, *what*?! That's right. The Late Late Show's Craig Ferguson appears to have a not-so-secret French admirer -- one who's not above ripping off both his opening titles and his signature dance sequences (including the iconic animal puppets): "ABC" by The Jackson 5, "Flashdance" by Irene Cara, "On the Floor" by Jennifer Lopez and Pitbull, "Waka Waka" by Shakira, "Men in Black" by Will Smith, "Let's All Chant" by the Michael Zager Band, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham!, "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls, and "Vive Le Vent (Jingle Bells)" by Tino Rossi. Luckily, Ferguson's sense of showmanship is more prodigious than litigious -- he responded to Arthur's "homáge" by booking a pair of translatlantic crossover shows, with Arthur visiting LA that week and Ferguson flying out to Paris just last month. Video of both shows (plus lots more) inside! [more inside]
Blockbuster: DSK may be freed Friday as the rape case against him collapses The NYT reports prosecutors found the chambermaid was involved with drug dealers, possible extortion. previously
The story begins in 1879. Cheval, then 43 years old, had been working as a rural mail carrier in the southeast of France for 12 years. Because his daily routine involved walking about 20 miles (32km), mostly in solitude, he did a lot of daydreaming. One day (perhaps while his mind was elsewhere), he tripped over a small limestone rock. He picked up that stone and over the next 33 years went on to build his dream, Le Palais Idéal, an amazing fantasy palace. [more inside]
Safari Disco Club / Que veux-tu double-feature music video for two tracks from Yelle's second album
"Maxims and axioms are, just like summaries, the work that spirited people do, it seems, for the use of mediocre or lazy spirits." Presenting maxims, axioms and more from the Philosophes: Vauvenargues! Chamfort! Fontenelle! La Bruyère! Galiani! La Rochefoucauld! Saint-Évremond! [more inside]
Either the Best or Worst AIDS Awareness Video you'll ever see features "Smutley", a silent-era-style animated cat having sex with everything in sight, to a soundtrack of Joan Fucking Jett's "Bad Reputation". Kinda obviously NSFW although lacking any cartoon genitalia. And where's the message? Wait for the end. From the French non-profit organization AIDES, which has been even more NSFW in the past, like a year ago with an animation which was, well, all genitals. Coming next: a site about "a better way to talk condoms" at BlahBlahBlahBlah.org. Oh, those French! (via Adrants)
In the two decades starting in the 1980s, Laurent Boutonnat produced a series of atmospheric pop videos for Mylène Farmer, the chart-topping "French Madonna" who is little known outside the Europop circuit. [more inside]
Why watch a movie when you can just watch the titles? Browse title sequences by designer and read interesting backstory and discussion on the art of making a title sequence.
Princesse Ghislaine de Polignac, who has died aged 92, was the former wife of Prince Edmond de Polignac, and more than once survived crises that would have consigned a less determined person to social ostracism. Here's a sketch of her as a younger woman.
Jacques Rivette, who emerged in the 1950s... as one of the primary filmmakers of the French New Wave, is the most underappreciated (and under-screened) of this legendary group. Rivette’s deliberately challenging, super-size films defy easy assimilation, and demand a level of attention unusual even to his compatriots’ works. In addition to being considered difficult, however, Rivette’s body of work is also, arguably, the richest of the New Wave era, possessing an intellectual inquiry and humanity unmatched in the French cinema of his time. [more inside]
Iconographie ouvrages anciens is a collection of historic animal illustrations that date as far back as the 16th Century, courtesy of the library at Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire de Lyon. [more inside]
A dreamy animation about life, love, and loss. Un Tour de Manege (A Turn of the Gear) shows the journey of a girl from youth through adulthood.
William Langewiesche writes an enthralling account of the hijacking of a French cruise ship in the Gulf of Aden by Somali pirates.
Writer Harry Mathews' epically challenging recipe for Roast Boned Rolled Stuffed Shoulder of Lamb (Farce Double) in text and audio form.
Fatal, the story of a country bumpkin from Savoie who passes himself off as a streetwise rapper. In reality the satirical creation of Michäel Youn, the French equivalent of Andy Samberg or Sacha Baron Cohen, rap group Fatal Bazooka have already had
worldwide European success with Fous Ta Cagoule (an exhortation to attire oneself properly on the ski slopes - English lyrics here) and Parle à Ma Main, featuring Yelle. Other work includes Mauvaise Foi Nocturne and the Sean Paul/Benny Benassi/Eric Prydz-inspired J'aime Trop Ton Boule. Youn is also responsible for the familiar-sounding Comme de Connards and the completely nonsensical Stach Stach which was the number one single in France for almost four months.
Unlike many cinematic exports, the Disney canon of films distinguishes itself with an impressive dedication to dubbing. Through an in-house service called Disney Character Voices International, not just dialogue but songs, too, are skillfully re-recorded, echoing the voice acting, rhythm, and rhyme scheme of the original work to an uncanny degree (while still leaving plenty of room for lyrical reinvention). The breadth of the effort is surprising, as well -- everything from Arabic to Icelandic to Zulu gets its own dub, and their latest project, The Princess and the Frog, debuted in more than forty tongues. Luckily for polyglots everywhere, the exhaustiveness of Disney's translations is thoroughly documented online in multilanguage mixes and one-line comparisons, linguistic kaleidoscopes that cast new light on old standards. Highlights: "One Jump Ahead," "Prince Ali," and "A Whole New World" (Aladdin) - "Circle of Life," "Hakuna Matata," and "Luau!" (The Lion King) - "Under the Sea" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" (The Little Mermaid) - "Belle" and "Be Our Guest" (Beauty and the Beast) - "Just Around the Riverbend" (Pocahontas) - "One Song" and "Heigh-Ho" (Snow White) - "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo" (Cinderella) - Medley (Pinocchio) - "When She Loved Me" (Toy Story 2) - Intro (Monsters, Inc.)
Laurent Lavader is a French astrophotographer. His new collection, Jeux Lunaires (Moon Games) features whimsical and beautiful photos of the moon (NPR Gallery, Flickr). Many of the photos have been coupled with a poem and collected in a book which you can preview online. [more inside]
The next day, Sunday, I spent almost nine hours immersed in Robert Lepage’s marathon play, Lipsynch, at the Bluma Appel Theatre, which was part of Luminato. You tell people you’ve just spent nine hours watching a play conducted in four languages (with projected sur-titles) and they think you’ve undergone an endurance test, made a heroic sacrifice for art. On the contrary. There was no suffering(5 minutes of [enthusiastic] standing and clapping). The time flew by. It was like taking your brain on a luxurious cruise. Or spending the day in an art spa, basking in mind massages and sensory wraps. Maybe it was high art but the ascent was effortless: because Lepage did all the work for you, it was experienced as pure entertainment. [more inside]
The State University of New York at Albany's motto is "the world within reach." But language faculty members are questioning the university's commitment to such a vision after being told Friday that the university was ending all admissions to programs in French, Italian, Russian and classics, leaving only Spanish left in the language department once current students graduate.
Twenty-four different accents in just over eight minutes. (NSFW SLYT)
When Gillian Hills was discovered in 1958 by Roger Vadim, she was touted as being the next Bridgett Bardot. She went on to star in such films as Antonioni's Blow Up and the British rock and roll film Beat Girl, and even had a small part as Sonietta, the girl with the lollypop in A Clockwork Orange. But it is her early '60s French pop records which fascinate me. Here with Qui a su, Rien n'est changé, Rentre Sans Moi, Look at Them and Tomorrow Is Another Day .
Le blog de VelosVintage is a gorgeous French blog chock full of detailed photographs and history of beautiful vintage racing bicycles from older to newer.
Joe Dassin was the son of a Russian jewish American film director a Hungarian virtuoso violinist. [more inside]
The original version of "My Way" ("Comme d'Habitude", Frank Sinatra's version was a cover) was written by Claude Francois, AKA "CloClo". Somewhere between a French Wayne Newton and Elvis, he died when he was taking a bath, saw a lightbulb had gone out, and tried to replace it while standing in water, completing the circuit. Some of his hit songs include: Belinda, Belles Belles Belles (cover of "Girls Girls Girls"), Si J'avais un Marteau (if I had a Hammer), Sale Bonhomme (French country, cover of Johnny Cash's "Dirty Dan"), Le Disco est Francais His scantily clad female backup dancers, called the "Claudettes" or Clodettes, were the inspiration for the Solid Gold dancers and had their own short-lived solo spinoff career where they tried to cash in on the kung-fu + disco craze.