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Je T’aime – The Story of French Song with Petula Clark

“I want to make people cry even when they don’t understand my words.”   Edith Piaf

In this unique film for BBC FOUR we explore the story of the lyric-driven French chanson and look at some of the greatest artists and examples of the form.

Award-winning singer and musician Petula Clark who shot to stardom in France in the late 1950’s for her nuanced singing and lyrical exploration will be our guide.

We meet singers and artists who propelled chanson into the limelight, including Charles Aznavour (a protégé of Edith Piaf), Juliette Greco (whom Jean-Paul Sartre described as having “a million poems in her voice”), Anna Karina (muse of Jean-Luc Godard and darling of the French Cinema’s New Wave), actress and singer Jane Birkin, who had a global hit (along with Serge Gainsbourg) with the controversial “Je t’aime (Moi non plus)” and Marc Almond who has received great acclaim with his recordings of Jacques Brel songs.

In exploring the famous chanson tradition and the prodigious singers who made the songs their own, we continue the story into contemporary French composition, looking at new lyrical forms exemplified by current artists such as Stromae, Zaz, Têtes Raides and Etienne Daho, who also give exclusive interviews.

In this special film for the BBC we shine a spotlight onto a musical form about which the British are largely unfamiliar, illuminating a history that is tender, funny, revealing and absorbing.