Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris

Starring: Elly Stone, Mort Shuman, Joe Maisell and Jacques Brel
inDVD and Fremantle Home Entertainment
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 28 March 2005

The American Film Theater's freewheeling and experimental adaptation of the long-running off-Broadway revue based around the music of Jacques Brel. It stars Mort Shuman, who translated Brel's songs into English for the play and Brel himself turns up to sing his own Ne Me Quitte Pas...

Jacques Brel is Alive And Well And Living in Paris is not an obvious choice for DVD. The Belgian singer songwriter is obviously hugely influential and is therefore deserving of wider exposure but this film, and its DVD release, add little to his legacy if only because of its format - it's a musical without any narrative or plot.

The origins of the film lay on Broadway were a 1960s stage production of Brel's work, complete with theatrical production values and routines, took New York by storm. Its transfer to the big screen, however, makes a for a strange movie, although it is never dull on the eye. Where else would you see a large plaster hand drop from a ceiling while a puppeteer operates singing marionettes? Or, for that matter, a soldier kick an exploding megaphone?

Brel, who wrote in French but was translated into English for the movie and stage play, had a number of repeated lyrical preoccupations - sex, low life anti-heroes and drink. In many respects he is very similar to Nick Cave and so it is therefore slightly weird seeing songs of brutal passion and despair married to dance routines and camera trickery.

Jacques Brel is Alive And Well And Living in Paris is therefore unlike any other movie you'll ever see. Whether this makes it any good is down to the personal tastes of the viewer although it is hard to imagine that fans of the great singer will be pleased with the song settings and it is surely too odd to draw in anyone not familiar with his work.

Bold, brash and imaginative but ultimately very deeply flawed, it is difficult to see who will be buying this disc. And as for repeat views... I think not.

Anthony Clark

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