Saturday, January 16, 2010

Lets Go French!

Pourquoi? Well, why not. A change of pace is good for me every now and then and I'll tie it in somewhat gingerly to Hong Kong film. I try not to be one of those American's who like to snigger about the French every time they disagree with the USA on something because there are lots of things I love about the French - Paris is the greatest city in the world to walk around in, their movies can be very cool New Wave or post New Wave, I could eat profiteroles all day and all night, a female French accent gets me every time, they almost make smoking look like something I should be doing, Inspector Maigret, cafe's where you can sit for ages without a waiter giving you the evil eye, Godard for saying "All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl." and French pop music from the 1960's.

Two female singers from that period in particular are my favorites. One is the amazing Francoise Hardy who began singing in the early 60's with a melodic pop/folk style that is very mellow and very catchy. I've been addicted to her music for years now and have almost everything she has done. When she first hit the scene she was nicknamed the "Yeh Yeh Girl" for her jaunty pop energy in songs like "Oh Oh Cherie", but her style quickly matured and so did she. She recorded regularly into the 1970's and from then on till the present day on a much more intermittent basis. There are a number of YouTube videos of her, but here is one of my favorite songs of her's, Une fille comme tant d'autres.

My other favorite French singer? None other than Brigitte Bardot. If I was forced to chose who was the sexist woman in the world, I think Brigitte circa 1960 would be it. I am not sure if the term "sex kitten" was created for her but it should have been. Her sex appeal is atomic. Many of her early films were straight out fun romantic comedies with a large dose of Bardot sizzle. I came across a video of one of these films in the Brooklyn Library the other day and took a look at it. It is Une Parisenne from 1957 and it doesn't seem to be available on DVD. She co-stars with Charles Boyer and Henri Vidal in a totally infectious and charming silly comedy about newly weds sorting out their concept of fidelity the French way. But Bardot was a good singer as well - not great but she chose her material well for her voice and released quite a bit of music in the 60's. Her most famous song is probably one in which she duets with Serge Gainsbourg called Bonnie and Clyde (later covered by Luna). One DVD I would highly recommend to anyone who is a fan is a compilation of some of her TV appearances called Divine BB and this YouTube video is one of those songs. She is so cute in this.

So let's bring in the very faint Hong Kong connection to French music. I have yet to see it but in one of Johnny To's latest films, Vengeance, he casts one of France's most famous singers, Johnny Hallyday, who has been around forever. I actually realized that I have one of his CD's - so though I doubt it, but just in case anyone was curious about what he sounded like, here for your listening pleasure are two songs of his.

I am not sure if the use of a French actor is in some small way To paying homage to the great French director that he admires so much and that perhaps influenced if not his style perhaps his fascination for crime films, Jean-Pierre Melville. I am slowly going through Melville's all too small filmography - Le Samourai (which of course influenced John Woo as well), Le Doulos, Le Cercle Rouge (Woo is a big fan of this one as well) and the absolutely brilliant Bob Le Flambeur. Last week I caught up with Un Flic (1972), a nifty very compact crime thriller shorn of any fancy adornments. Four guys rob a bank (two of them being American actors Richard Crenna and Michael Conrad, of Hill Street Blues fame). One of the gang gets wounded and their plans slowly begin to unravel with the sleek handsome cop Alain Delon tracking them down. Catherine Deneuve is the femme fatale - attracted to both Crenna and Delon and vice versa. Action films have changed so much since then - Melville has quick shootouts and quick deaths - no bullet ballet stuff going on. At one point Crenna robs a parcel of drugs by boarding a speeding train from a helicoptor - probably pretty fancy stuff back then but you can imagine what a director would do today to pizzazz it up 1000% with special effects. This was Melville's last film as he died the following year at 56 years old.

And just for the heck of it, one more YouTube video of Brigitte singing and showing her famous cleavage!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clips! I've known about Francoise Hardy but never saw or heard her before. I love her cool style.

Last year when I found out that Fanny Fan was dubbed "The Brigitte Bardot of China" at the start of her career, I figured I should watch one of Brigitte's films. I decided on The Girl in the Bikini (1952), her second film. It was pretty good, fun to see Brigitte as a fresh-faced teenager before she became her iconic self.

YTSL said...

A Brigitte on an Asian Cinema board who's not Lin Ching-Hsia? Aiyaaaah!

Brian said...

There are three FH compilations out there that are quite nice - on the Cristal label. And if ever you get into 60's French pop, there are two wonderful series of collections of female singers from that period - The Ultra Chicks series and the Femmes de Paris series - just a ton of catchy pop from the swinging 60's.

I have been meaning to get to Bikini for a few weeks now and have it sitting on my table. Many of her films have yet to make it on to US DVD but a bunch have and I quite enjoyed some of them. Her most famous and BB at her most ravishing was in and God Created Women.

YTSL -didn't Brigitte Lin take that English name because she was such a fan of BB!