Jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Django Reinhardt, Nina Simone or Duke Ellington have haunted many of Paris' traditional (intramural) jazz clubs with unforgettable performances, but much of the vibrancy of the present-day jazz scene in Paris can be found in the north banlieues, or suburbs. Last week marked the kickoff of the annual Banlieues Bleues Jazz Festival, a heady, eclectic program bringing together both well-known and fresh artists from around the world. Around 20 venues clustered in the northern suburbs of St. Denis, Aubervilliers, Pantin and others are hosting this year's shows, with highlights including performances from artists such as American jazz multi-instrumentalist Kahlil El'Zabar, L'intuition Vincent Curtois and Michael Ackerman, Andre Minvielle, and Charles Tolliver Music Inc. Whether you're hooked on Afro-Caribbean, New Orleans, acid or folksy jazz styles, this year's festival should hit your sweet note.
Read More and Find Tickets: Guide to Banlieues Bleues 2014 (Paris Jazz Festival)
Image: Jazz group Sweetback performing at Paris jazz festival Banlieues Blues in 2009. Mateo de la Vega/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons License.
To celebrate International Women's Day and Women's History Month, we're paying tribute today to a few great Parisian women of the 20th century. While March is indeed an opportune time to laud extraordinary women such as these, from writer Colette to dancer Josephine Baker (and there are, of course, countless others we could add to the list), their towering achievements should be properly recognized as contributing not only to the advancement of women, but to humanity as a whole. In my book, the fact that we still feel a need to set aside a day to recognize women's achievements, or even use terms like "woman writer", suggests that the fight for genuine equality is far from won. I'm pretty sure these great Parisians would agree.
Read More: Great Parisian Women of the 20th Century
Image: French photographer Claude Cahun/Self-portrait. Around 1929. Gelatin and silver print.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes - © RMN / Gérard Blot.
Alain Resnais, one of France's most revered and influential filmmakers and considered an important, if peripheral, member of the exuberant Nouvelle Vague film movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, died on March 1st in Paris. He was 91 years old.
He is best remembered for his 1959 film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, based on the novel and screenplay by Marguerite Duras, and charting a love affair between a French woman and a Japanese man against the haunted background of the nuclear attacks at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by US forces. Deploying an innovative combination of ultrarealistic, documentary-style techniques and brief flashbacks to create a nonlinear, surrealist narrative structure, it's widely credited as helping to spur the Nouvelle Vague movement, led by the likes of Truffaut, Godard, and Agnès Varda, and inspiring some of their own experimental narrative techniques.
But years before that movement gained international attention, Resnais made his groundbreaking 1955 documentary about Nazi concentration camps during World War II, Night and Fog-- one of the first films to treat the horrifying subject head-on during a time when euphemistic discussion of the death camps was more common. Although the film ran a brief half hour, Resnais captured audiences and critical attention with a combination of archival footage, and his own live photography, shot ten years following the liberation of the camps. As in so many of Resnais' films, the subject is memory and its haunted, ephemeral, melancholy fabric. The documentary would help to generate international attention to that dark period in European history, and keep its memory alive.
Originally from the western French region of Brittany (Bretagne), Resnais was born in 1922. He discovered the surrealism of André Bréton when he was only a teenager, and moved to Paris to work and act in local theater-- a theme that would permeate his later work. After serving in the military for a brief stint around 1945, Resnais returned to Paris and began working as a film editor, but soon started making his own shorts. He was involved in the left-bank intellectual circle of writers and philosophers that included Alain Robbe-Grillet, one of the founders of the so-called "new novel". Their interest in experimental narrative would mark his own search for a filmic brand of nontraditional storytelling and plot. Robbe-Grillet wrote the screenplay for Resnais' 1961 film, Last Year at Marienbad, which was an international success.
The filmmaker remained prolific throughout his life, although he veered away from controversial political topics in the latter stages of his career, in favor of more "slice of life" stories and reflections on the theatrical life, told mostly through highly unconventional camera and narrative techniques. In 2012, his penultimate film Vous n'avez encore rien vu (You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!), was screened as part of the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival, based partially on a 1941 play by Jean Anouilh, Eurydice.
Resnais is survived by his second wife, film director and actress Sabine Azéma. He will be sorely missed as one of Paris' great filmic lenses and storytellers of the 20th century.
Image credit: Alain Resnais in 2012. Getty Images Entertainment/Gareth Cattermole.
Just in time to summon spring to the city of light, St. Patrick's day celebrations are just around the corner in Paris, offering an authenticity you wouldn't necessarily expect thanks to a strong Irish expatriate community and a lively menu of great events. Whether you're itching to check out one of Paris' many excellent Irish pubs or hear some live traditional music from award-winning County Cork band, North Cregg, over at the Irish Cultural Center (Centre Culturel Irlandais), read our newly updated guide to splashing on the green in Paris on the 17th.
Image credit: Corcoran's Irish pub near the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. Joe Shlabotnik/Creative Commons.