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Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday's French music break - Lisa Angell, "N'oubliez pas"

France wins the Eurovision Song Contest after 38 year long wait.

Well, that might well be the dream of France Télévisions executives who, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen a song that could have sealed victory several decades ago.

But that "dream" risks becoming a repeat nightmare of last year's final place entry when Twin Twin (who?) managed just two measly points.

Hoping for better things (well, let's face it, they could hardly get worse) France has plumped for another act largely unknown to the domestic audience to fly the tricolore at this year's annual "music" fest to be held in Vienna, Austria.

Lisa Angell will warble her way to Eurovision obscurity with the perhaps worryingly premonitive "N'oubliez pas" ("Don't forget").

Lisa Angell (screenshot from "N'oubliez pas")

Yep, while 21 of the 27 countries appearing in the final have opted to sing in the musical lingua franca of English (or "la la" approximative versions of it anyway), France has decided steadfastly to buck the trend by insisting on sending someone along singing a "proper" French entry...and that means in French.

Not that "la langue de Molière" will help improve Angell's chances though, as the song is dated, probably lacking in real appeal and instantly forgettable the moment it has finished.

And that can be an important element in Eurovision voting (you can decide for yourselves how weighted and unfair/fair it might be, there has been much...far too much...written on that subject)

as Angell will be the second act to take to the stage on Saturday and might well have become a foggy memory by the time all 27 countries have "done their stuff".

"Gifted with a powerful voice" and "extremely proud and happy to represent her country...with a song of hope and peace, of courage and solidarity," Angell may well be.

But that's unlikely to impress the millions who'll be watching the televised marathon, and France looks set to wait a little (lot) longer for that seemingly evasive Eurovision win.

Which is a shame, as there is so much (young) talent around that could have reflected the true nature and variety of the French music scene, such as The Avener, Cats on Trees, Marina Kaye, Louane Emera, Kendji Girac, Christina and the name just a few.

But hey. This is Eurovision - and more often than not it's the lowest common denominator that counts which, come to think of it, is probably the only thing to be said in Angell's favour.

Take a listen.

Try not to yawn.

And "enjoy" this week's Friday's French music break.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Valérie Trierweiler's "non-interview" interview on France 3 TV

It was surely the most peculiar of interviews; at the same time both surrealist and seemingly beamed in from a parallel universe.

Valérie Trierweiler's first appearance on French TV since her bust-up with the French president, François Hollande, THAT ("political memoire") book and promotional tour abroad and, even more recently, the slap she gave the 33-year-old  centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement) politician Mohamed Rizki, when he (some might say somewhat insolently) asked her in the street, "How is François?"

Valérie Trierweiler (screenshot 19-20 France 3 Ile-de-France news)

Yet the presenter of the 19-20 France 3 Ile-de-France news, Jean-Noël Mirande, declined to pose any questions relating to any of those matters during the interviews because...well, journalistically-speaking apparently they weren't interesting enough or relevant as to why she had agreed to be interviewed in the first place.

Say what?

All right so the cause Trierweiler was "promoting" (not her own in this case) was without doubt virtuous - the work of the Secours populaire français, an association "fighting against poverty and exclusion in France and throughout the World".

But this is a woman who has made the headlines over the past year or so for all the wrong (or right - depending on your perspective) reasons.

And yet Mirande declined to ask one single question during the main body of the interview because he didn't want to detract from the serious nature of the Secours populaire's work.

Oh well, maybe he had gone to a different school of journalism to that of his colleagues.

The one which panders to the guest, doesn't ask the "burning questions" no matter how tasteless they might be and decides that news is set, not by events, but by avoiding any mention of them.

And just to ensure that viewers had completely understood why, he handed Trierweiler the most servile of questions at the end, when he broached the slapping incident by asking how she dealt with controversies whenever her name was brought up.

"It's difficult because a non event becomes a headline. And at the same time there are some serious things happening in the world," she replied.

"I just don't understand how such a fuss can be made out of something that is so inconsequential."

To which Mirande responded, in true probing style, "And that's the reason we decided not to talk about those subjects. But I wouldn't have been forgiven if I hadn't tried."

Valérie Trierweiler's truly absurd return to the French media spotlight as France 3 blows its "scoop".

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

(Not) Understanding French politics - the Macron reform

Quite an ambitious headline, but don't worry, this isn't about to become a pedagogical piece on the finer details of the French political system.

Neither is it going to be a dumbed-down version pandering to the lowest common denominator.

Rather it's a simple but hopefully informative observation as to how difficult it is, even for those who enthusiastically (try to) follow French politics let alone others who only dip into it from time to time, to get to grips completely with the machinations of the system.

Certainly France isn't alone in having its own political peculiarities, but that doesn't mean it's any easier to understand them when they are on full display.

Friday's edition of the excellent lunchtime news magazine "La Nouvelle Édition" on Canal + contains a short segement, presented by journalist Gaël Legras, called "Vu de l'extérieur".

Legras takes a whistlestop tour of other countries' news outlets to discover how they're covering particular stories about France; in other words "what they're saying about us".

Last Friday's chosen subjects were the trial in Lille featuring Dominique Strauss-Kahn who (don't groan) had denied charges of pimping. Paris Saint-Germain's match against Chelsea in the Champions League, anti-semiticism in France following the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in the town of Sarre-Union in the east of the country and the racial slur made by a former foreign minister, Roland Dumas during an interview on BFM TV  and the so-called article 49-3 of the French constitution.

Now, that last subject might not seem particularly interesting, but its application last week illustrated perfectly just how idiosyncratic the French political system can be.

It's a tool which can be used by a government to force a bill through the national assembly without a vote being taken.

It's rarely used because, apart from being perceived as out of step with the democratic process, it is invariably followed by the opposition tabling a motion of no confidence in the government.

But that's exactly what happened last week to economic minister Emmanuel Macron's bill "designed to remove obstacles to French economic progress".

Emmanuel Macron (screenshot from interview with Jean-Jacques Bourdin, BFM TV November 2014)

The bill includes a raft of reforms such as extending Sunday shopping, opening up heavily-regulated professions to greater competition, privatising certain regional airports, ending the monopoly of intercity bus routes...and, and, and.

You can read more about Macron and the reform package in this piece by Anne-Sylvaine Chassany in The Financial Times.

In short though, the reforms came under fire from a number of Socialist party parliamentarians, rebels known as Les Frondeurs, who said they would not vote through the package.

At the same time, two opposition parties, the centre-right Union pour un mouvement populaire (Union for a popular movement, UMP) and the centrist Union des démocrates et indépendants, (Union of Democrats and Independents, UDI) declared they wouldn't be voting in favour either...even though Macron's bill was largely inspired by ideas previously advocated by both parties.

It makes complete sense - doesn't it? Well, at least politically.

Understanding that this was all going to end up very messily for a reform which was supposed to be one of the most important of the second half of his term in office, the French president, François Hollande, gave his prime minister, Manuel Valls, the green light to invoke that (in)famous 49-3 article.

The outcome - UMP and UDI tabled a motion of no confidence forcing Les Frondeurs to rally behind the government because apparently "voting against a bill (introduced by their own party) was one thing, but backing a vote of no confidence submitted by the opposition was not the same."

Not easy for the world's media to understand what the heck was really happening - and just as impossible for those in France as it seemed the political world had turned upside down.

In essence though it was a defeat all round.

The bill still has to make its way through the Senate and then back (in a revised form) to the national assembly.

The opposition has shown itself unable to stick to any sort of political principles (an oxymoron?), and the Socialist party is as divided as ever.

And...oh yes...there are local elections (départemental this time around) in March when guess whose party is predicted to lead after the first round of voting.

Yep, Marine Le Pen's far-right Front National no doubt benefitting from the disillusion many in France have with the traditional political parties.

And last week's parliamentary palaver will only have helped her cause.

But that's quite another story.

Don't worry if you've understood nothing or very little of all of the above.

You're far from being alone.

It's all...well, very French politics - n'est-ce pas?
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