In the music box at Café Sans Blague, the meeting point for idyllic youth in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé, the sounds of a battle cry will prove to be the soundtrack to the revolution. Allen will become a popular song for many. It was first recorded in 1965 by legendary French singer Christophe and achieved overnight success. But the version that appears in Wes Anderson’s The French Chronicle belongs to a fictional character named Tip-Top, responsible for British musician Jarvis Coker (who also performs the song).
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It all began, Anderson and Coker explained, with a record cover. A simple idea of a French pop star that the young characters in the movie can adore. But it has evolved beyond the release of aline Which Coker did for the film’s soundtrack. In fact, inspired by the fictional singer and with plenty of free time during the confinement of the pandemic, Coker decided to record a twelve-song album for this fictional artist, titled Top tip boredom songs.
The French Chronicle – Official Trailer (Sub. Spanish)
The album and the idea of the Tip-Top are a tribute to the music and culture that these two Francophiles, Anderson and Coker, revere. Gather for the world premiere French record At the Cannes Film Festival, the two reflect on their long history together, the philosophy of French pop music, and how the album cover inspired their own album.
How did they meet?
Wes Anderson (Washington): Actually, the first time we met Jarvis was at a party for my two films, The Eccentric Tenenbaums, in London. That was about twenty years ago. Then we met again at a party for the film Marie Antoinette, which was made in Versailles, and at that time we lived in Paris. So we got to know each other better, and after a little while, I was working on Fantastic Mr. Fox, and asked Jarvis if he wanted to play a character who sings a song.
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Jarvis Cocker (JC): I bought a banjo thinking maybe I could learn to play it, but I got over it. It still surpasses me. It has threads starting from the middle of the neck. The Eccentric Tenenbaums party was in a weird place in Soho, wasn’t it? I was the DJ at that party, upstairs somewhere, and I remember thinking, “I’m going to explore a little.” I had seen “Three is a agle” and had the soundtrack, and I think I put a couple of songs together to try to create the right atmosphere.
They share a taste for music and a love for French culture…
Jimmy Carter: Yes, I would say yes. The song featured in the movie, Aline, is one of Wes’ favorite French songs. I had never heard of it before he taught it to me. I have always loved French music. Especially Serge Ginsburg and Jacques Dutronic and things like that.
WA: I feel like our character, Tip-Top, probably because of his style, or his looks, is very Dutronc. I’m sure I told Jarvis about the first time I heard Allen’s song. I went to a party at Castle’s nightclub…maybe around the time we met. It is a club in Paris located in the area. I was sitting next to a thin little guy with gray hair, a beard and blue sunglasses, who didn’t speak much English. We had some sort of conversation, and I found him very warm and friendly, but we didn’t really communicate well.
At what point in the making of “The French Chronicle” did you happen to incorporate a character like Tip-Top?
W: Well, I wish Roman [Coppola] He was here, because that’s the story I wrote with Roman. I think we were writing a scene and it just came up. The idea was to address French youth culture in the late 1970s, and at some point in our conversation about things that happened in the café, we asked ourselves who their hero was? Who will play the musician? And from there I think we started to shape it and asked ourselves: What do we call it? Something French like tip-top. The name is in English, but you will not connect to the idol of pop-tip-top outside France.
Jimmy Carter: The song seems to be at a very special moment. I think we tried to write an original song, but it wasn’t enough advice. But he must have lived, as Wes described it, that moment when no one could help her but to join in the singing. “Et j’ai I created, I created” Aline! “. It is like a call to join ranks.
How did you choose the songs for the album?
Jimmy Carter: Somewhat arbitrary actually. They are simply songs that I love. For example, there is a version of a Françoise Hardy song called Mon Amie La Rose, a song when I was still living in Sheffield shortly after leaving my parents’ house, and I found a Francoise Hardy CD in a shop of second-hand, and he sang songs in English. And I’ve always been fascinated by that song.
WA: With Aline, in terms of recording and vocal category, I think Jarvis and Christophe are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It’s funny that we’re showing the film for the first time at the same Cannes Film Festival that opened with Leos Carax, because when talking about how these French words are sometimes overtly poetic or abstract, really, Leos Carax was the inspiration for many of these scenes.
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Why do you think metaphor and figurative language have such an important influence on French pop music?
Jenny: I don’t know why, but I think it might have something to do with the fact that rock and pop music in France is something imported. It happened in the US and UK, and it was a very important movement. And not only in France, but it was imported to many places in the world. Over time, they asked, “Why do we pay to import this? Why don’t we make our own music? But then, I think all the people who were composing songs or things like that started making lyrics for pop songs, and they couldn’t help but add a little bit of Depth or character to songs.
WA: I think conversations about philosophy are more common among young people as well. Especially in the United States compared to previous times. Political conversations… I don’t mean to say they’re involved, but it’s the things they talk about. They are part of what interests them. When I was a teenager that wasn’t the case. Maybe a little more in college, but philosophy wasn’t something American teens would deal with. In France, it’s something you see in front of you when you grow up.
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