'Noël à Vaugirard' was a short film that appeared in an episode of Dim Dam Dom, broadcast on December 23, 1966. Starring Serge Gainsbourg as Joseph and Chantal Goya as Marie (Mary), it's a comedic telling of the Nativity story updated for its young, modern audience, filmed at the abbatoirs of Vaugirard.
It's been exactly 50 years since this odd Christmas sketch first aired on French TV, so I thought it might be a good time to revisit it, this time in more detail than when I first posted it ten years ago. I have also realised the version I originally shared is abridged, so wanted to post the full version, which is four-and-a-half minutes longer. 'Noël à Vaugirard' was a short film that appeared in an episode of Dim Dam Dom, broadcast on December 23, 1966. Starring Serge Gainsbourg as Joseph and Chantal Goya as Marie (Mary), it's a comedic telling of the Nativity story updated for its young, modern audience, filmed at the abbatoirs of Vaugirard. It's a light, throwaway kind of piece, but irreverent in its own way, with some surreal and highly creative moments that reflect the unique approach of the program.
Premiering in March 1965, Dim Dam Dom was the flagship show of the newly launched second television channel of France's national broadcasting service, ORTF. It aired once a month on Sunday afternoon, for a total of 70 episodes until the end of its run in 1971. Daisy de Galard, who had worked at Elle magazine for fourteen years, was approached by Roger Stéphane, a journalist and an advisor to the head of ORTF, Claude Contamine, to create a television magazine aimed at women. Though she had no experience in television, the fledgling producer set out to make something different to the usual fare offered to female audiences at the time. She created a show that was modern and innovative, taking many risks both aesthetically and in terms of subjects the show covered. The program not only showcased some of the most popular entertainers of the time, but was a springboard for many young journalists and directors. The name Dim Dam Dom was an abbreviation for Dimanche (because it was broadcast on Sundays), Dames (since it was primarily targeted at women), D'hommes (because it also featured segments concerning men, and aimed to hold their interest as well). A hit from its first broadcast, and successful later in reruns, Dim Dam Dom is remembered with a great deal of respect as a pioneering program.
Radio Télévision Suisse has an excellent online audiovisual archive which includes a number of videos featuring 1960s French pop stars. You'll find all the big names like Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy, France Gall, Johnny Hallyday, Sylvie Vartan, Sheila and Jacques Dutronc, as well as some rare clips of more obscure artists. There is much to explore on the site, so here are a few of my picks:
Tucked away twelve minutes into a May 1967 episode of news magazine Carrefour is a performance by yé-yé girl Chantal Kelly (I've clipped out her part above). One of my favourite French pop girls of the era, she remains puzzlingly uncomped and unreissued. I wrote about this nine years ago, mentioning she'd only made it onto a couple of compilations, and nothing has changed since. It's hard to understand, as her songs are as worthy as those of the most beloved and frequently reissued girls. Unlike some singers saddled with tame rehashes of American and British hits, Chantal got to record quality originals by top songwriters (the above song is co-written by André Popp), including some highly inventive songs like 'Caribou'. There is more than a whole LP's worth of material begging to be anthologised – someone make it happen.
The rest of these videos are embedded from the RTS site, so require Flash:
Wow, this is twenty incredible minutes of Françoise Hardy in London in 1965. The footage includes Hardy recording her album L'amitié at Pye studios, and walking around the city with her then-boyfriend, photographer Jean-Marie Périer.
Each episode of the Swiss series Chansons à aimer focused on a single music artist, giving the subject a chance to showcase a handful of their songs and be interviewed at some length. In this 1969 episode, Michel Polnareff performs 'La poupée qui fait non', 'Jour après jour' and 'Pourquoi faut-il se dire adieu'.
This is a sketch from an episode of Dim Dam Dom broadcast on Dec 23, 1966. I'm not exactly sure what's going on besides it being a modernised version of the Nativity story, with Serge Gainsbourg as Joseph and Chantal Goya as Marie (Mary). Though I'm pretty sure that even if my French were better, I'd still be left scratching my head at scenes featuring nuns sashaying to Gainsbourg or Jacques Dutronc briefly performing in a meat locker. Plenty of fun, weirdness and great tunes, with an all star cast including Sylvie Vartan (intro) and Régine (full cast list at IMDB).
Forget The Smiths' version of 'Golden Lights' - it's not a patch on Twinkle's original or Chantal Goya's charming French cover. It's extraordinary to realise Twinkle was still a teen when she wrote this quietly genius piece of pop, and that her fame wasn't more than fleeting. Perhaps she was ahead of her time. The song manages to be biting, sincere, poignant and simply gorgeous. Twinkle had been dating a member of The Bachelors, but I can't find confirmation on whether or not he's the subject of the song.
*Edit - yep, it is about the Bachelors guy! And Twinkle was only 14 when she dated him, but he was not aware.
And thanks to Heather for pointing out the Chantal Goya cover, I forgot to mention!
This song is even better if you've seen Godard's Masculin, Féminin. I've listened to Chantal's songs a fair bit, but only got around to seeing the film a couple of days ago - and this track hasn't left my head since. Thankfully for us non-Francophones, the lyrics are subtitled on the DVD, so you can understand their relevance to the film.
If you're looking for a CD compilation of hers, Les Années 60 is the one you'll want. After this, she went on to a career as a children's singer. (The 'biographie' page on that site has some good pics of Chantal in the 60s. Warning: Cheesy kids' songs play when you open that site).
April March has said of Chantal:
Chantal Goya speaks to me but she doesn't to everyone. She has a very fragile voice and sometimes funny timing, which I find ultimately authentic and charming but I'm often a minority on this one.
I would agree with April on that, and if you see the film, I think Chantal's subtle charm becomes more apparent.
out of print
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