Saturday, August 30, 2008

France in the 1970s

France Culture, part of the French public-radio network, has been running great summer series. I mentioned the one about François Truffaut, but I've also been hooked to Les Années 70, which has been devoting two-hour shows of audio archives to each year of the 1970s. What's particularly inspired is that while the shows do mention big events, they also broadcast rather long, uninterrupted excerpts of less obvious but very 70s documents, like several minutes of Marguerite Duras explaining why it's okay to steal books (even if she herself doesn't have the guts to do it); Solzhenitsyn's appearance on the hit literary TV show Apostrophes; a report on Bertolucci filming Last Tango in Paris; the French Communist Party's head, Georges Marchais, interviewed about a strike; the mayor of a small town complaining about gay cruising; a news report a month after abortion was legalized; and so on.

And while I can't remember lyrics of the songs I hear now, even the ones I get obsessed with, lyrics from songs I heard when I was 10 or 12 are still crystal-clear in my memory, particularly Franco-Frenchy-French hits like Joe Dassin's hideous "L'été indien" (Joe was the son of director Jules Dassin), Johnny Halliday and Sylvie Vartan's "J'ai un problême" (I love the addition of vrooming sounds for the video) or Alain Souchon's "Bidon" (sensitive Alain was one of my mom's favorites and we listened to him a lot in the family Peugeot). Needless to say, none of these songs ever made it outside of France.

I was listening to the show about 1976 this morning, and they were playing excerpts from the very first Césars ceremony (France's answer to the Oscars). For Best Actress, the nominees were Isabelle Adjani in Truffaut's The Story of Adèle H, Delphine Seyrig in Duras' India Song, Catherine Deneuve in Rappeneau's Le Sauvage and Romy Schneider in Zulawski's L'Important c'est d'aimer. Schneider won and gave a speech magnificent in its economy and elegance. Here it is in its entirety: "Thank you very much. I'm very happy and very proud. And I'd like to tell you that tonight I'm especially thinking about one man who taught me my job, who was my master and my great friend. He'll be happy for me. It's Luchino Visconti."

A film that had a huge impact in 1976 France was Carlos Saura's Cria Cuervos. Partly it was because of the stupendous acting by young Ana Torrent, but also because the film's song, Jeanette's "Porque te Vas," was a hit. It remains a personal favorite to this day.

MP3 Jeanette "Porque te Vas"

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