On The French Fringe

Episodes

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01That Film Festival Fixation20121119

Kirsty Lang and Lucy Ash take a series of snapshots off the beaten track in France, looking at the state of the nation through the prism of arts and culture. Along the way they meet an eclectic mix of artists, writers and performers.

France boasts 168 annual film festivals, possibly more than all the other countries in the European Union put together. Some are famous, like Cannes. Some are obscure, like one on the Ile de Groix off the coast of Brittany exclusively devoted to films about islands. Or the celebration of detective films in the little town of Beaune, more famous for Burgundy reds than blood-soaked thrillers.

Lucy and Kirsty visit Aneres, a remote village in the Pyrenees, (population 150) which hosts a silent film festival. The slogan is "Silent Cinema - Talking Piano" and they discover that the annual get-together, which began with the revival of the village cafe, now attracts top-class musicians from across France, many of whom compose original scores for films made before their grandparents were born. There is no entry fee - the audience is encouraged to 'feed the pig' - a huge piggy bank for donations outside the main screen in the village hall. But as the organiser Sylvain Airault admits, he relies on generous state subsidies which are under threat in this climate of austerity.

02Cartoon Crazy20121120

Comics or Bandes Dessines are seen as "the ninth art" in France. Graphic novels are not just entertainment - they deal with serious topics from biography and philosophy to chronicling events like the Iranian Revolution and the Rwandan genocide. So why were the French the first to elevate comics to an art form rather than a geeky pastime?

Kirsty and Lucy talk to Jose Luis Bocquet about his vivid chronicle of the rollercoaster life of Kiki de Montparnasse -the famous beauty, artists' model and painter in her own right. In Paris, magazine editor Patrick de St Exupery explains why he commissions cartoonists to bring current affairs stories to a new audience. He says that the cartoons in XXI, which he set up as a French equivalent to the New Yorker, help to sell this glossy and expensive monthly magazine at a time when his competitors are closing down. And Lucy and Kirsty discover that Paris has several bookshops entirely devoted to selling graphic novels and cartoon books.

03Street Theatre And A Giant Elephant20121121

When the Sultan's Elephant made its way through central London in 2006, almost 1 million people turned out to see it, making it the most successful piece of street theatre ever performed in the UK. The giant French puppets have more recently appeared in Liverpool to mark the centenary of the Titanic's launch and sinking. But where did these towering animatronic creatures come from and who were the people pulling the strings?

Lucy and Kirsty go to Nantes, to find out how the street theatre company Royal de Luxe helped to transform this depressed former industrial city into a beacon of contemporary French culture. while retaining some of the traditional skills formerly used in shipbuilding. They meet its eccentric founder, Jean Luc Courtault, and see his latest show. They discover why the city's former mayor, Jean Marc Ayrault, now the Prime Minister, believes that investing in culture is key to promoting economic growth.

04False Beards And Feminists20121122

In the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal which rocked France, Lucy Ash and Kirsty Lang find out how feminism in France is still very much a fringe affair. They meet some female French authors to discuss how language influences the way men and women relate to each other. Why did France's obsession with the perfect female form drive one writer to turn her heroine into a pig? And at some personal risk, they take part in an intervention staged by women wearing false beards.

05 LASTUnderground Art - Literally20121123

Kirsty Lang and Lucy Ash investigate an underground arts collective which operates in the vast network of tunnels which lie beneath Paris.The obsessively secretive members of the Paris Urban eXperiment, known internally as "The UX", have spent the last 30 years surreptitiously staging arts events and restoring and preserving parts of their heritage which they feel the French establishment has neglected. A few years ago these underground hackers and artists became infamous when one morning the clock at the Panthéon, that had not worked in years, began chiming thanks to their efforts. Kirsty and Lucy clamber down a series of rickety mental ladders and damp tunnels to find out why some people prefer the Paris far below street level in the company of Tristan and Alex and they speak to founder members Lazar Kunstmann and Jean Baptiste Viot.

Since broadcasting the programme, Mr. Kunstmann has strongly denied that Tristan and Alex belong to UX, stressing the serious purposes behind the group.

Kirsty Lang and Lucy Ash investigate an underground arts collective which operates in the vast network of tunnels which lie beneath Paris.The obsessively secretive members of the Paris Urban eXperiment, known internally as "The UX", have spent the last 30 years surreptitiously staging arts events and restoring and preserving parts of their heritage which they feel the French establishment has neglected. A few years ago these underground hackers and artists became infamous when one morning the clock at the Panthéon, that had not worked in years, began chiming thanks to their efforts. Kirsty and Lucy clamber down a series of rickety mental ladders and damp tunnels to find out why some people prefer the Paris far below street level.