Thursday, March 22, 2007

TV on demand

The indispensable INA (Institut National de l'Audiovisuel) is the repository of French public television and radio archives, and there's gold in them vaults. INA has been putting a lot of its holdings online lately; most of the footage is for rent or purchase (prices usually range between 1.5 and 6 euros), so you can download and watch at your leisure, and there are plenty of free clips and teasers.

Recently, INA uploaded a whole slew of Apostrophes, a wildly popular literary talk show that aired between 1975 and 1990, and remains a classic of French television. Just search for Solzhenitsyn (or rather Soljénitsyne, in French), for instance, and you'll get a special, shot in 1983, where host Bernard Pivot visited the Russian writer (seen playing tennis at one point) at his Vermont house. Other classics I still remember from my childhood include a very drunk Bukowski, a cigarette in one hand, a glass of something boozy in the other, staggering out of the set after driving the usually unflappable Pivot crazy, in 1978.

You can also listen to the news broadcast from the day you were born, and of course, the INA site is loaded with great music, from Sheila singing "Les Rois Mages" in hot pants to entire operas from the Aix en Provence festival, like a Così fan Tutte recorded live in 1955.

Have I mentioned the plays? French public TV used to show a lot of theater, and my generation grew up devouring everything from boulevard stars (all hail Jacqueline Maillan!) to Marivaux in prime time.

Thank you, INA, for giving us the biggest time-suck outside of YouTube.

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