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Lesson Transcript

Virginie: Bonjour!
Eric: Eric here. Top Five Things You Need to Know About Pop Culture in France.
Eric: Okay. So thanks for being here with us today Virginie.
Virginie: Hello. Today is pop culture day.
Eric: French pop culture.

Lesson focus

Virginie: Yes. Enough of high culture and fine arts. Let’s see what else people entertain themselves with.
Eric: Yeah I thought that American pop culture is taking over the world and was the only, go to the ??? kind of sense.
Virginie: Certainly not in France although France does get influenced by other cultures, which is great, it surely injects its personality into its pop culture as well.
Eric: I’ve heard there is some pretty unique game show in French TV. I’ve heard of “la carte aux trésors” the treasure map which involves this is like gigantic treasure hunt all over the country. It is pretty cool right?
Virginie: Yeah this game show is also meant to discover France’s secret places and unknown spots.
Eric: Okay so we’ve prepared a top 5 list of French’s pop culture delicacies. So this is why you will be able to see what people are singing in the shower and what French people are hooked out on TV.
Virginie: And in the sports section, we have Zinedine Zidane for soccer.
Eric: Zizou!
Virginie: Yeah see even you know the nickname people gave him.
Eric: I love Zizou.
Virginie: We all love our Zizou. He is a national treasure.
Eric: How come he is so popular?
Virginie: Well there are several reasons for that. The first one being he is an awesome soccer player. He was French soccer team’s captain back when France won the world cup in 1998.
Eric: Ah that’s right. Does he still play?
Virginie: No he retired but he is still in people’s heart.
Eric: And soccer is one of the most popular sports in France.
Virginie: Yes it is along with Tennis and Rugby.
Eric: So what other reasons are there for Zidane’s popularity?
Virginie: Well his family is originally from Algeria and he has both French and Algerian citizenship. He is therefore a strong symbol not only for the Algerian community in France but also because France and Algeria have had quite a few relationship issues since the colonization.
Eric: So Zidane is loved by both countries and he is like a symbolical wink in a way.
Virginie: Yeah something like that and then besides that he is known to be a very sweet and generous person. He is involved in charity and he works a lot with Children’s organizations.
Eric: Hmm a nice buy but you seem to forget that he rammed his head into Materazzi’s chest in the finals against Italy in the world cup.
Virginie: Well that was an exception. He was reacting to some nasty comments the Italian player made on the field. Let’s just drop it.
Eric: Okay. I have found if you ask anyone in France if they know Zizou, they will say I love him.
Virginie: Yeah they will have a big smile on their face.
Eric: I would like to get to the second part of our top 5 pop culture items.
Virginie: Uhoo is it French pop music?
Eric: Believe it or not, France has an incredible number of singers, not that many bands but a lot of solo singers and quite a significant music production industry.
Virginie: It’s true. How come French music is not imported that much?
Eric: Probably because French people are the only ones to understand the lyrics.
Virginie: You are right and since French music is based on its lyrics, it loses interest abroad. Which singer you know is very popular in France Eric?
Eric: I kind of like Julien Doré. I think he won the “nouvelle star”.
Virginie: Yeah “La Nouvelle Star” is the French version of American Idol. Remember, we are talking about pop culture here. Every winner gets really popular among the audience of the show of course.
Eric: La Nouvelle Star!
Virginie: Yeah the new star. You know, I never watched American Idol but I watched some of the episodes of the Nouvelle Star in France and first of all, I was really surprised by the jury. These four people are all quality artists and music journalists. I wasn’t expecting that.
Eric: Okay and what kind of songs will we hear on the radio?
Virginie: Well French folk music which consists usually of the singer singing with minor musical support.
Eric: Okay. So these are singers like Pascal Obispo and Florent Pagny.
Virginie: Yes Pascal Obispo and Florent Pagny are really popular. There is another movement in France embodied by singers like Cali or Bénabar who work more on original musical arrangements and try to remain more independent than the big pop singers. Does that make sense?
Eric: And what about Carla Bruni? I like her songs.
Virginie: Yes they are cute. They tend to put me to sleep though which is nice too.
Eric: If you need some after dinner music.
Virginie: You are right. Her voice is very soft.
Eric: So but I’ve also heard that French pop music also takes on all of you know, the characters of France’s other territories.
Virginie: Like “la Réunion” or “la Martinique” yeah. The music called “le zook” have you ever heard of “le zouk”?
Eric: Yeah.
Virginie: It’s very popular. One of the big singers is Medhy Custos with her famous single “Elles demandent” in Metropolitan France. Zouk is a very sexy islandish music dance.
Eric: Okay it sounds pretty good, it sounds pretty good. So what about besides folk music “le zouk” what about rock bands?
Virginie: Well actually we are not very good at rock bands but there was that one rock band called “Noir Désir” which means dark desire.
Eric: Dark desire…
Virginie: Yeah it doesn’t sound very good though they were really, really good. Unfortunately their lead singer is in jail for a murder. So we can’t hear them.
Eric: Ah that is…
Virginie: It is…
Eric: That’s pretty dark. I’ve heard French hip hop is pretty amazing. It’s supposed to be the second biggest market after the US for Rap?
Virginie: Right. Have you ever heard of IAM?
Eric: Yeah, yeah they are from Marseille.
Virginie: Yeah it’s a big city in France too. They were really, really big in the 90s.
Eric: I heard there was this big rivalry between them and Paris’s main group “NTM”.
Virginie: Yeah NTM “nique ta mère” was very popular band as well.
Eric: Let’s move on to our next category of French pop culture, people who’ve made it big abroad.
Virginie: Yeah “le charme français” French charm, French touch abroad.
Eric: So who’s made it besides yourself?
Virginie: Very funny. Well there is definitely Jean Reno. Do you know Jean Reno the actor from movies like the – he was in the Da Vinci Code and he was in The Professional.
Eric: Yes The Professional is a good movie.
Virginie: Yes.
Eric: Okay. What about Marion Cotillard I think she was the actress in “La vie en Rose”.
Virginie: Yes she was playing Edith Piaf a French singer and she is now a Hollywood actress. She became really, really big here.
Eric: Wow! I’ve got to admit I personally have to think for Amélie.
Virginie: Oh you mean Audrey Tautou?
Eric: Yes Audrey Tautou.
Virginie: Yeah she is cute but so many people abroad told me about this movie Amélie that I keep forgetting it’s French but yeah Audrey Tautou is also very much loved in France.
Eric: And what about the director of the Fifth Element. Isn’t he French?
Virginie: His name is Luc Besson. He is also a very important wheat producer in France. He made “La femme Nikita”, “The Professional” and many others.
Eric: The French music scene is also pretty active around the world for the DJ Dmitry from Paris and the Electronic band Saint Germain.
Virginie: Yeah or “Air”. Do you know the band “Air”?
Eric: Air or hair?
Virginie: “Air”. Yes not hair, “Air” a-i-r. They made the soundtrack for Sofia Coppola’s movies, The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation.
Eric: Ah it’s little like Daft Punk right?
Virginie: Yes a little bit like Daft Punk.
Eric: Okay let’s see. So French pop culture is you know pretty radiant, I guess?
Virginie: Yes indeed, I am rather proud.
Eric: You should be. In any case, I am very happy to hear all about it.
Virginie: Well but we are not done yet. We still have two more on our list. Since we just talked about some of the French movies that became famous abroad, let’s talk about French people’s tastes when it comes to movies.
Eric: The French movie industry is pretty reactive right?
Virginie: Yes about 30% of the movies shown in movie theaters in France are French but French people are very fond of foreign movies as well.
Eric: There are a lot of festivals and all these cinema events.
Virginie: Yes.
Eric: Cannes festival, the Deauville festival for American films and Nantes festival for African films, Clermont-Ferrand festival for short movies.
Virginie: Yes you know them all!
Eric: I am pretty good but I mean Paris has all these tons of small young directors’ festivals too.
Virginie: Yeah French people do love cinema for entertainment as well as for you know intellectual stimulation.
Eric: Yeah I guess French movies tend to be a little bit more intimate, they are very psychological, socially analytical.
Virginie: Yes. We also have comedies. You should definitely see comedies from the 80s. They are hilarious.
Eric: I don’t associate French movies with comedy. Could you give me an idea?
Virginie: For example, there is this movie called “Les bronzés” which means “the tanned people” and it takes place in a summer resort and you know one thing more, it’s really funny and you should definitely rent it.
Eric: I will take a look.
Virginie: Or see it, it’s kind of crazy.
Eric: I will definitely take a look. What about this movie that came out last year that was really big?
Virginie: That was the big hit. I haven’t seen it but I’ve heard that it was the biggest hit in 50 years in France. It is “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” which means “welcome to the Ch’tis” and the Ch’tis in France is the way we call Northern people. So it broke the box office record.
Eric: Wow! So I heard it was going to be adapted here. It’s going to be a Will Smith Movie apparently?
Virginie: Yeah, yeah Will Smith About the Rights, true. It’s adapted here which is going to be interesting.
Eric: Interesting. Will Smith and the Ch’tis. Okay.
Virginie: Okay.
Eric: But I guess a few other French movies have got adapted here like True Lies for example.
Virginie: Yeah, yeah originally it’s a French movie.
Eric: What was the French title?
Virginie: La totale.
Eric: Interesting. Wow! So there is really French flavor all over the world.
Virginie: Yeah but when it comes to French television, we are quite overwhelmed with American TV shows.
Eric: Those shows are usually dubbed, all right?
Virginie: Yes everything is dubbed in French. It’s really funny. Dexter, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy.
Eric: I wonder what voice they gave to Eva Longoria.
Virginie: It’s pretty similar to her real voice actually, I am sure.
Eric: And the movies are dubbed also?
Virginie: Yeah to give you an example, Michael Douglas has had the same voice in French for a long time and one day, they changed the voice actor and all of a sudden, Michael Douglas’s voice was different. I was really shocked. ??? his French voice obviously.
Eric: It will be like if he came on one screen one day and just started talking at a high pitch voice or something….
Virginie: You are right.
Eric: Quite a shock.
Virginie: But apart from American shows and movies, French television has its own very French predictions too. One of them is a Soap Opera called “Plus belle la vie”, The More Beautiful Life.
Eric: What was that about?
Virginie: Well it’s the story of friends living in Marseille in Southern France. The interest of the show is it depicts Marseille’s historic streets and its inhabitants and its nice tv show.
Eric: There is one TV show that I like in France. It’s part of this show called “Le grand journal”.
Virginie: Yes.
Eric: It’s very short. It’s like 2 minutes long. It’s just these guys entering questions over the phone.
Virginie: Oh yeah. I see what you are talking about. It’s a hidden France and it’s actually very, very funny. People just love it. It’s called “le service après-vente des émissions” which literally means television customer service and I recommend it. Yeah it’s really good.
Eric: Me too but watch out. You will need either subtitles or pretty advanced level of French to understand it.
Virginie: Right. They speak very, very fast. Did we forget anything about French pop culture Eric?
Eric: There is probably more than we have time to cover but….


Virginie: We hope you enjoyed this glimpse of French culture.
Eric: And if you are craving more, you can read the lesson notes.
Virginie: Ok, thank you for listening, have a good day.
Eric: Au revoir.
Virginie: Au revoir.