Friday, October 24, 2008

Quickie Thoughts; Charles Trenet

It really does not make any sense that poetry as an art form should be so completely moribund. There are too many minor subjects, impressions, momentary states of feeling that would seem to call for poetic expression above any sort of treatment in prose form. I do think there is a tendency among us too much to seek a poem, will it into being, than have confidence that its shape will reveal itself to us. Also, "poet" is not really a proper career, or first career anyway, even if one eventually is remembered as one. The number of poets in history whose output would have justified doing nothing but writing poetry for fifty years is not large, and almost all of these had substantial other careers and roles as well. It is not a profession.

I was watching a movie from 1988 not long ago--it was one of Woody Allen's movies, so it was relatively low budget and lifelike--and I was astonished at how quaint that time period looks now. Other periods--the 1940s or the 60s say--because I have no actual memory of them, never seem to be any more different or to grow any more remote to me though time rolls on--the Beatles, for example, say, though when I first became conscious of them they had just broken up a couple of years earlier and were still barely in their 30s, always belonged to the long-lost past in my mind. But in 1988, while I wasn't doing much I was 18, I was driving, I had a job, I may even have been in New York (I was there a lot in '89 anyway) but when I see film of it now I almost can't believe I did. It truly looks like a foreign country.

I know, this is on every American's top-five favorite French pop songs list, but it's there for a reason. I have never been anywhere where this song came on and every head in the room did not snap momentarily to attention. It is one of the more rousing compositions I know.

Charles Trenet was the Johnny Cash of French music--everybody loves him, he embodied the nation to the world in a light it found most flattering, and every idea for a song he fell upon seemingly turned to gold. One could spend a good part of the day working through his oeuvre, but I will just link to a view of my favorites:

Que-Reste-t-il de nos Amours?--A big famous hit. Quintessential yearning French romantic song.

La Romance de Paris--Speaks for itself.

Les Oiseaux de Paris--Yes, he was gay. Short, charming piece.

La Vie Qui Va--Superb! Also a rare instance of French people shown enjoying themselves in a completely psychologically unburdened manner, without any need to cruelly manipulate and torment each other.

Le Debit de Lait--The lyrics are full of clever wordplay that is probably beyond anybody who is not a native speaker's ability to get much of a thrill from (certainly mine). This is sort of thing the French themselves go into extasies over though, and it's a pretty good tune.

Since there were themes both of France & the year 1988, I will give you Joe le Taxi as well. Vanessa Paradis (now famous as the wife of Johnny Depp) is of course only 14 or 15 here, but as I was 17/18 at the time this video was made I tend to see her (and anybody who was a teenager in the 80s) as somebody who would have been in high school the same time I was, not as someone I am leching on.

However my (and doubtless everybody else's) real 80s French love interest was the incomparable Mireille from the French in Action TV show. There are several videos devoted exclusively to footage of Mireille's breasts, but I will leave you to find those on your own. I won't stoop that low.

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