An Outsider to Popular Culture

Living in a foreign country, you soon realise how much of the popular culture is a mystery to you.  Cultural references and jokes and cross-references and asides are lost on you.  I have also found that the interesting thing is that popular culture is something that you absorb, like it or not, almost unconsciously.  I can easily research the references and look at videos on YouTube but despite all that, these people and moments have played no part in my life and I have no connection to them and no amount of reading and watching will really make that connection.

A film was released here called CloClo a couple of weeks ago.  It’s a biopic of the singer and dancer Claude François, who was an enormous star during the 60s and 70s.  He wasn’t a desperately interesting singer or even a particularly nice person but he worked phenomenally hard and continually reinvented himself, often according to British or American trends.  Many of his most successful songs are cover versions.  Some of which I have provided links to for your listening [dis]pleasure.

His most notable musical feat, and it’s a pretty notable one to be fair, must be in writing the original version of My Way, originally called “Comme d’habitude”.

His death was rather banal for such a big star.  The film suggests he was rather controlling but also verging on control freakery and possible OCD.  He was taking a shower and, noticing that a light was either broken or simply not straight, reached from the shower and was electrocuted.  Of course, there are other rumours about his death.  One involves playing with “an electric sex toy” in the bath, which is a more decadent way to go but also infinitely more stupid that fiddling with a broken light.  I knew what the ending was and, given I was getting a little bored by the end of the film, was pleased to see him get into the shower as I knew what was coming next.

So that was the end of Claude.  Au revoir Claude.  He was such a star that today many people say that they will always remember where they were when he died, akin to the deaths of Elvis Presley or John Lennon.

Come the end of the film, there was some sniffling and grizzling but everyone stayed to the end to sing along with the music over the final credits.

As for the film, well, it’s not great.  It’s very linear and covers an awful lot of detail.  The actor playing Claude, Jérémie Renier, is impressive but the structure of the film lacks any wit or intelligence in telling the story.  I compare it to the recent films of Gainsbourg and The Iron Lady in which key points are taken and shown to describe to demonstrate key moments and characteristics.  The scenes are fairly well observed and the art direction is good.  Unfortunately my lack of engagement with the topic prevented me from enjoying the film.  On the plus side, I have learned about a major popular artist here who I had never heard about before.  And that’s about it.  And now you know the basic story, you don’t have to see the film.  You owe me one.


4 thoughts on “An Outsider to Popular Culture

  1. Elizabeth says:

    My long man audio visual French memories tell me that comme d’habitude means “as usual”. ” I did it, as usual” sounds much more bitter and resigned than our familiar glorious and I dependent ” I did it my way”. No wonder he didn’t make it as an international star. Or perhaps he was just referring to his OCD driven behaviours?

    • Alistair Leadbetter says:

      It does mean “As Usual” and the song is nowhere near as dramatic and self-indulgent as “My Way” [written by Paul Anka]. Comme d’habitude is actually about a loveless relationship in which they keep pretending “as usual” so the sense of resignation is quite true. Much more bleakly French. Grand. If you’re really unlucky, I’ll translate it later

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Please do, that sounds much more my cup of tea than ‘my way’

  3. Alistair Leadbetter says:

    There you go! It’s an excellently bleak one

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