Sous La Glace

Via Foxtongue.

Just a blue-haired, help underwater-smoking gayelle mermaid to brighten up your Monday morning. This illustration by Georges Leonnec appeared in risque French magazine La Vie Parisienne in 1926. The magazine was founded in 1863, ambulance relaunched just before World War I, and evolved from a mild-mannered society journal to an erotic magazine of humor, literature and scantily-clad damsels. Many more images from La Vie Parisienne can be seen here, here and here.

Badass “Les Cyclopes” Performance by E. Comparone

Elaine Comparone is the Tony Iommi of Baroque harpsichord, and you’re about to get your face rocked off, Rameau style.

Via Darla Teagarden, who says, “imagine running through a house of mirrors in Greece circa 1927 after smoking hashish while wearing tiny shoes.” (Perfect!)

Comparone claims Rameau’s shredding piece of music was inspired by Homer’s Polyphemus. Other scholars suggest that the French composer was representing the BRVTAL brothers Arges, Brontes, and Steropes –Cyclopean blacksmiths who forged lightning bolts for Zeus– and that the insanely manic percussive runs are meant represent the giants busy at work, hammering and forging thunderbolts. Either way? MMM\m/ETAL.

The FAM: The Triplets Of Belleville

Hot, steaming pantomime on order today for the FAM as we present The Triplets of Belleville (Les Triplettes de Belleville), the surreal animated adventure from 2003, written and directed by Sylvain Chomet.

Triplets tells the story of Madame Souza who is raising her son, Champion. Noticing his sadness one day, she purchases for him a dog named Bruno and though this does cheer him up, his joy is short-lived. It is only after she realizes his interest in bicycle racing and gives him a bicycle of his own that Champion finds real happiness. Fast forward and, years later, Champion has become a world-class cyclist, competing in the Tour de France. It is during this race that a mafia boss kidnaps Champion and two other cyclists, bringing them to the town of Belleville in North America and hooking them up to a virtual-reality cycling machine, allowing patrons to gamble on the races. Madame Souza and Bruno follow, of course, attempting to rescue him from the mafia’s nefarious clutches; meeting along the way the titular triplets, a trio of retired cabaret singers.

It’s a strange arc, then. Triplets starts off easily enough, slow and methodical, but upon the kidnapping of Champion things surge into overdrive, getting progressively weirder and the two don’t quite mesh as well as they perhaps should. It’s almost like they stitched together to different films. That said, this observation does little to detract from my enjoyment of the film. Chomet has created a beautifully realized world here with his characters barely uttering a single word. The version above features no English subtitles, an omission you will hardly notice. Every emotion and thought is spoken with subtle, expressive animation. In addition, the movie features an outstanding soundtrack inspired by the jazz of the 20s and 30s (the film even goes so far as to reference both Django Reinhardt and Josephine Baker in the first few minutes.)

In animation at least, I find myself drawn to pantomime. It strikes me as a testament to an animator’s talent, this ability to abandon the spoken word. In that way it’s interesting to note that Pixar, who’s Finding Nemo beat out The Triplets of Belleville for best picture has begun incorporating this aesthetic more in their recent films, most notably Wall-E (perhaps my favorite from them). Chomet’s new film, L’Illusionniste will see a release in the States in December and I find myself just as anxious as when I first saw a trailer for The Triplets of Belleville. I just can’t see his oeuvre losing its charm.

Stephane Halleux’s First Film, Monsieur Hublot

French sculptor and Coilhouse Issue 02 featured artist Stéphane Halleux is trying his hand at a new medium – animation. In response to countless questions, pleas, and threats he’s created a digital character after one of his leather and scrap metal sculptures, Monsieur Hublot. There is no word yet on the release date of the eponymous, seven-minute short, but we do know that Mr. Hublot [named thusly as a nod to Jacques Tati’s tragically inept Monsieur Hulot] is a bachelor accountant suffering from a host of obsessive-compulsive ailments. He lives in a small, gadget-packed  apartment with his robotic dog, loves his leather trench coat  and despises noise.

Together with Zelit Productions, Stéphane hopes to eventually develop the project into a feature-length film. Meanwhile, a frame-sponsoring system is in place, allowing interested fans to take part in the short’s development at up to 9EU per frame. From the Monsieur Hublot website:

In exchange, among other things and depending on the amount of images sponsored, they will get updates on the film’s production, a print of one of their sponsored images signed by Stéphane Halleux, the opportunity to appear in the the credits, etc. As for ourselves, this quid pro quo will enable us to complete the financing of the short film and to prepare the release of the feature film.

I love this idea!

Two charming animation tests from Monsieur Hublot have been released into the wild, so far. Watch below as the character gets his bearings and faces off with a light switch, then check out his outfit in more detail.

Ladyhood: The Video Game

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Girls suck at video games / Les filles sont nulles aux jeux vidéo
from Stéphanie Mercier on Vimeo.

“I thought only my classmates, mom and dad would watch this,” wrote French animation student Stéphanie Mercier in the Vimeo comments for the clip above after witnessing an influx of visitors from MetaFilter, Daily What, SocImages and beyond. Titled “Girls Suck at Video Games,” the animation presents the challenge of climbing the corporate ladder, maintaining a stylish image, having babies and doing housework though the use of beloved 8-bit/16-bit metaphors: Super Mario Bros, Street Fighter, Pac-Man and Space Invaders. Compare and contrast with Dan the Man.

Les Rita Mitsouko

The music video for “Le Petit Train” by ’80s duo Les Rita Mitsouko was an elaborate production filmed in Bombay. Dancing her way through the infectiously upbeat tune, sari-clad frontwoman Catherine Ringer asks, “Petit train où t’en vas-tu? Train de la mort, mais que fais tu?” The lyrics speak of serpentine trains passing through the countryside, carrying children and grandparents “to the flames through the fields.” As the song reaches its climax, Ringer – whose father was an artist and a concentration camp survivor – trades the fixed smile of her Bollywood dance routine for close-ups that reveal tears flowing down her face while she continues to sing. Ringer’s background in avant-garde theater can be glimpsed in many of Les Rita Mitsouko’s music videos, which appear after the jump.

Les Rita Mitsouko was formed in the early 80s by Ringer and guitarist Fred Chichin in France. Early in their career, Ringer and Chichin had the fortune of working with two great producers: their eponymous first record was produced by Conny Plank, famous for his work with Kraftwerk, Neu and other various bands associated with krautrock. Their second album was Tony Visconti’s top pop project after David Bowie. A year later, the duo was featured in Jean-Luc Godard’s film Keep Your Right Up.

Many band biographies omit the fact that prior to her musical career, Catherine Ringer was an underage porn actress. If you Google this fact, you will find some shiiiit (literally) that’s highly NSFW. I bring this up because I find it empowering that Ringer went on to become one of France’s biggest pop stars (though they were arguably more popular elsewhere in Europe). Had they been an American act, would Les Rita Mitsouko have reached the same level of success? I think back to the heartbreaking interview that Marilyn Chambers gave a few years before she died, recounting with sadness a life of failed attempts to break into “straight” film, and have my doubts.

“The Puppet Makers” Print Giveaway!

“Versailles, 1685. France has industrialized centuries before her neighbors but focuses on creating exquisitely ornate robotic shells for the aristocracy called, DOLLIES. Towering, lavishly expensive, [they] run on electricity provided by damming the Seine. Only the court elite wears DOLLIES, but their upkeep is beginning to bankrupt France. During the king’s birthday party, his Dolly explodes but is found to be empty…”

Artist Molly Crabapple (look for her illustrations in #05!) and author John Leavitt have been creating lots of buzz in recent weeks with The Puppet Makers, their gorgeous “rococo steampunk murder mystery” set in Versailles, 1685.  DC Comics’ online imprint, Zuda, has been publishing it in page-by-page increments each Wednesday. A stunning new page went up this morning.

Molly –generous and supportive friend to Coilhouse that she is– would like to give away a signed, limited edition print of one of The Puppet Makers’ pages to the Coilhouse reader with the “best guess as to where the king is”. Read up, then leave your deduction in comments for a chance to win!

The Anthropomorphic Glamour of Antoine Helbert

Remember that racy 2008 Orangina commercial from France? Yes –  that one. As described by the Todd Mueller, the Creative Director of the Psyop, the agency that produced the spot, the “Naturally Juicy” campaign was all about “raunchy naughty furriness”: animals dancing in burlesque outfits, spraying other with Orangina and riding giant bottles until they explode. The TV ad was accompanied by a colorful pin-up print campaign that included octopus, jellyfish and cactus women, illustrated by artist Antoine Helbert. In his personal work, featured here, Helbert continues the human-animal theme in a more nuanced, less gendered way. Some of these characters remind me of China Miéville’s Remade; people whose bodies are transformed through a mixture of grafting techniques and magic into hybrids of human, animal and even mechanical parts. [via Allie]

The Mysterious, Musical Megumi Satsu


Intrigued. Enamored. Deeply amused. This is how I’m left feeling after watching Megumi Satsu videos. The striking French singer’s voice cascades like velvet and breaks like glass, while her hat collection is rivaled only by that of Grace Jones.


She left her native Sapporo, Japan for Paris in the seventies. In France, the enigmatic Satsu captured the attention of surrealist poet Jacques Prévert who wanted her to interpret some of his work. After doing just that, Megumi befriended sociologist Jean Baudrillard and artist/filmmaker Roland Topor. Both wrote songs for her. It’s hard to say whether she’s exactly “known” but the avant-garde underground clout can not be denied with such a repertoire. Among her song titles, Monte dans mon Ambulance [Ride My Ambulance], Motel Suicide Below, and Silicone Lady. Below, one of her few songs in English, Give Back My Soul.

The drama! The floorwork! The camp! I had an impossible time choosing which version of this song to post. The others are here , here, and here for your perusal; you decide which is best. Researching her, I’ve come across several Nina Hagen comparisons, but my friend Q. and I agree there’s more Anna Varney on enka than anything else. Megumi Satsu has stayed true to herself, maintaining a decidedly stark haircut, browless face and love of hats and cigarettes to this day. You can see recent photos of the singer along with another video below the jump. And! She has a new album out as of last week titled Aprés Ma Mort [After My Death] which can be obtained on her website. My new role model, indubitably.

Show us on the doll where the scary mime touched you.

The Compagnie Philippe Genty is widely regarded to be one of the most accomplished and gutsy performing arts troupes currently working on the world stage. Their elaborate productions defy easy categorization, using a mixture of puppetry, mime and dance in conjunction with elaborate costuming and props. The narratives and meanings behind their productions are even more difficult to nail down; usually there’s no coherent, linear plot. Surreal, sometimes nightmarish vignettes play out like Freudian wet dreams:

(Via Whittles, thanks!)

Translating roughly from the French on their website, Philippe Gentry calls their story-building process one of free association.”The company is intent on exploring a visual language that reveals and plays upon conflicting aspects of human nature. When a scene takes place in the subconscious, following neither linear narrative nor the psychology of traditional characters, there are no hard and fast laws of causality. Instead, the performances resonate with our inner landscapes, provoking the emergence of these unspoken and insane hopes, these fears, these shames and desires… these shared, unlimited spaces.”

All that deep and somber explication aside, sometimes the troupe’s output is just downright hilarious:

Several more clips after the jump.