The Mermaids from Dieppe

What a pleasure it was to attend the premiere of the documentary Les Sirènes de Dieppe at the Max Linder yesterday morning! An hour in the company of the drag performers from La Sirène à Barbe (The Beardy Mermaid Cabaret): the backstage, the camaraderie, the financial struggles, the fight against intolerance, and a bit of musical comedy. A truly well-made film.

From left to right: Claire Babany (producer), Raphaël Bancou (composer), Fabienne Thibeault (patron), Diva Beluga (performer and owner), Lily (performer), Nicolas Birkenstock and Nicolas Engel (directors), and I can’t remember the rest.

My composer friend Raphaël Bancou—whom I reconnected with after 10 years at this event—composed the music. More on him soon.

If you’re interested, the film by the two Nicolas (Birkenstock and Engel) will be available on replay starting September 19th on France TV. Don’t miss it. And if you’re in Dieppe, go see them live!

Son of My Father

I’m belatedly exploring the works of Giorgio Moroder, aka Giorgio, who seems to have influenced every electronic artist on the planet. Recently, I’ve been listening to this 1972 track on repeat:

The simplicity, the repetition, the crescendo. That’s all it takes.

Valence Screenwriters Festival

I registered after the deadline, so I couldn't schedule my meetings as well as I would have liked. Despite that, I caught up with friends, met some very nice people, attended some truly enlightening conferences, and had a few drinks—it's been a while.

This festival is very well organized for networking—with pre-arranged meetings and an app for connecting. And Valence—I forget this every time—but it's quite nice.

HOLY SHIT, WHAT A RUSH!

If you had asked me the day before yesterday, I would have told you I'm not really into concerts.

The music is too loud. There's too much commotion. It's too long.

But that was before my buddy Jackie Berroyer (who, let’s not forget, was a music columnist for Hara-Kiri) invited me to see Fat White Family last night at La Cigale. Never heard of them. I wasn’t expecting much. "You'll see, they're pretty good, you might like them," he said.

OK, now I get why people love concerts.

Incredible experience. Yes, the music was wild, hard-hitting rock with a sense of progression and some unexpected instruments (flute, baritone sax). Then there's the lead singer, Lias Saoudi. He's in shorts. By the second song, he's down in the pit singing in the middle of the crowd—setting the tone. For the rest of the concert, he sings (sometimes screams, but always in tune) balanced on amps, in a fetal position on the edge of the stage, or crowd-surfing.

From above, the pit pulses. It’s a collective experience. But you can tell it’s all masterfully controlled by a seasoned band: you catch the subtle, precise gestures the band members direct to the technicians; behind the wild personas are professionals who have crafted a structured and generous show. And the space of La Cigale, where you can move around freely, offers the freedom and intimacy to truly enjoy the experience.

I can see how people who’ve experienced this once can become concert junkies, chasing that initial high. And why some old-timers endlessly reminisce about a show they saw in their youth: "Oh, you know, when I saw that band back in '76..."

"A concert like that, you remember it for the rest of your life," Jackie told me as we walked out.  Yup, probably.

"Be Yourslef, No Matter What They Say"

If Sting repeats it three times in his song, it must be important.

It seems crucial to me, but also extremely difficult. All the authors (and people) I admire have, at some point, found "their" voice, their way of being, their vision of the world; while others continue to "imitate" by poorly copying their idols. Note: I think this is an essential stage. Admiring is being moved. Wanting to "be like" someone is recognizing something sublime in them that you wish you had; it shows a sensitivity that marks the beginning of everything. But to reach the next level and be considered an "author," "artist," or whatever, the second step is not optional: you have to find that quality within yourself. Develop your own tools. Shape your character from your inner material.

The main obstacles are always the same, it seems to me: fear and ignorance.

Fear of not being interesting enough. Fear of not being cool, strong, intelligent, or tormented like those we envy. Fear of not having the right past, the right life, the right look, the right mind. Fear that it's too early or too late.

Layered over all this: a coating of ignorance. Ignorance that these fears are natural, shared, collective. That they are often the driving force behind the talent and careers of those we admire. That, regardless of success, they will never leave us and are, when harnessed, an intimate and inexhaustible source of creation.

"What they criticize you for, cultivate it; it’s you." – Jean Cocteau

FreakshowCabaret

Another Surprise Culture Night!

I've mentioned before that I sometimes go listen to poetry in a cellar. Well, completely by chance, I stumbled upon the host of those evenings in another cellar, in the midst of a performance.

I was blown away by her energy, confidence, and humor. It's funny, touching, offbeat, but always kind-hearted. Her latest music video is available here. And here's another one with a bit of French in it (Sophia Lucia is American but lives in France):

You should also spend more time in cellars. It's (literally) where the underground scene is at. And it all starts here --> Freakshowcabaret

Panic in Space: Episode 6!

Meanwhile, quietly, I'm making progress on the post-production of Panic in Space:

Panic in Space #06: The Taxi of Anxiety - Lalao Pham Van Xua in the role of the Union President

Post-production can be quite solitary, but now that the Film des Ponts is finished, I'm focusing on this. The first six episodes are heading to festivals, and we're searching for a distributor. Any ideas?

The End (About Time)

I've finally reached the end of the novel I've been writing for... oh boy... fifteen years?

105 pages, a little over forty thousand words. There's one chapter left to revise in the middle, some corrections here and there, but all in all, it should be finished soon.

This is the first novel I've completed. Before this, I started several others that never survived the test of dispassionate rereading after a few weeks' break. But this one did. No matter how much time passed, months, sometimes years, I've always been surprised to find it good. To want to continue it. And to be able to move forward.

There are pros and cons to taking so long to tell a story.

On the pros side, there's a "Boyhood" vibe (the Richard Linklater film shot over 12 years): the person who starts the book isn't the same one who finishes it; you can feel a genuine transformation of perspective as the narrative progresses.

On the cons side, there's the evolution of style. Through practice, I write better now than I did fifteen years ago. Yet, I didn't want to revise the beginning too much to preserve authenticity. I've lightened it up a bit, aired it out a bit, but I've respected the progression and turns of phrase as if they were written by someone else.

Next step? Get it read. Find a publisher. Write the next one a little faster.