By all accounts, French touch artists are "magic remixers." They have the legerdemain that makes an accomplished conjurer's tricks look effortless. So, why are Frenchie music critics a bit "touchy" about their global success? Maybe they feel vaguely touchés by the fact that most of the initial airplay and club scene recognition came from the UK... Or, perhaps, they're just allergic to hype? Many presse spé specialist magazines snubbed the mass hysteria surrounding the launch of Philippe Zdar and Hubert "Boombass" Blanc-Francart's "so French" fin de millennium opus, "Cassius 1999."
However, back in February, le tout Paris zeroed in on a noon to 11pm French Touch Party held at Emporio Armani. The idea was to present a continuous live show featuring the nouvelle vague of soul/funk/groove/deep house... DJs whose vinyls and CDs are sold at Giorgio Armani's boutique/bookstore/restaurant. (149, bd St-Germain, 6e, tel: 01.53.63.33.50).
Last month, branché Paris city magazine Nova decoded zee "touch" and its hot spots in an eight-page feature titled "dans la jungle de la French touch" which included a sidebar focusing on CD cover designers and "French ambassadrice," a collage-like profile of Agnès b. who grew up in Versailles, just like the Air boys.
Princess of the Night
Mentioned not only in Nova but also in grand public publications like Elle, which describes her as "la reine des nuits technos," Aline Gravois is another key French touch connection. She runs her own DJ label out of a jazzed-up warehouse in Montreuil and has released a compilation dubbed "Aline in Wonderland" (Sony Music). Her "three poles" are the Queen (for its soirées respect, on Wednesday,) the Rex Club and... the What's Up bar. (15, rue Daval, 11e, M° Bastille, tel: 01.48.05.88.33).
What footwear befits a French Touch party? How about those No Name shoes favored by fans of very French utility gear? They have a certain je ne sais quoi... a unique cross of orthopedic chic and dancefloor maneuverability. (No Name Shop, 8, rue des Cannettes, 6e, tel: 01.44.41.66.46.)
Speaking of "twisting the night away," Interview magazine has published a trend piece called "French Twist." The story is about American and Brit performers who add a French touch to the names or contents of their acts. Among these: "Jacques Lu Cont, the DJ who by himself makes up the '80s-inspired electronic act Les Rythmes Digitales, is actually a skinny 20-year-old from Reading, England, who likes to eat baguettes and brie during press interviews."
Faux French touch vocab is everywhere, on both sides of the Channel and on either side of the Atlantic... The CD most in vogue in Paris en ce moment is Brit "Trainspotting" trio Underworld's techno/pop/dance album "Beaucoup Fish" and in New York, the latest after-Happy Hour catch phrase is "Où est la discothèque?"
Pursuing the questionable notion that it's hip to use foreign expressions at random... what would you think the word "strul" stood for, if you were told a new boutique called "S.t.r.u.l, the swedish lifestyle" had just opened in the Les Halles quarter? You might assume it had something to do with style. "Pas du tout!" explains one of the young co-owners. "It means messy as in messy room...We're not messy at all, but it's a fun name for a shop, isn't it?" Strul, alors! S.t.r.u.l turns out to be a très clean version of the Flintstones' cave in which a variety of exclusive Swedish products are displayed: simple, quality clothes for women and children, Björn Borg underwear, Make Up Store cosmetics, ceramics, glassware and other objects by Design House Stockholm. The tone is très Nordic chic as well as clubby and restful... Coffee, magazines and makeup tips are "serving suggestions."
At a recent Anglo-American Press Association luncheon, Minister of Education Claude Allègre outlined his lycée reform policies, a mix of "back to basics" ethics and "get 'em wired and computer literate" pragmatics that he thinks should be treated as an emergency, particularly in view of France's unemployment situation.
The same week, the 1999 screenings of Les Lumières, the French equivalent of Hollywood's Golden Globes, began with a preview of a movie which presents educational reform as a state of emergency. Filmed on location in a kindergarden in an economically devastated mining region in the north of France, Bertrand Tavernier's one hour, 57-minute docudrama "Ça commence aujourd'hui" (it all starts today) is strong stuff, a CinemaScope tribute to the dedication of underpaid pre-school teachers who strive to make a difference without losing sight of their significant other.
Rothko & Scully
Considering the extraordinary response to the Mark Rothko exhibit at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (11, av de Président Wilson, 16e, tel: 01.53.67.40.00.), which has been prolonged to April 25, it seems that the public is in the mood for larger-than-life canvases with the metaphysical dimension of great music.
An Englishman in New York since 1975, British painter Sean Scully has published an essay on Rothko (Editions de l'Echoppe) and has a one-man show at Galerie Lelong till April 17. While Scully's compositions are more like "Urban Hymns" than Rothko's, both artists give color an inner shimmer that nails the viewer on the spot. (Tue-Fri, 10:30am to 6pm; Sat, 2-6:30pm, 13, rue de Téhéran, 8e, tel: 01.45.63.13.19.)