I don’t know if you have an equivalent for this word in English. Yes, there is “conceptual,” but does it imply the same things as in French? I’m not sure. When I say “conceptuel,” it’s a mix of stunning, bewildering, artistic, useless (but that’s not a drawback, I love useless things), irrelevant, original, marginal, absurd, weird, and puzzling. Now, you may understand what I mean when I say that the French Project is conceptuel.

The French Project is currently on air at the Northwest Film Forum. On stage, six comedians/singers/musicians sing, act, and play in English and in difficult-to-comprehend French. And also in German, even if you don’t know why. Well, it’s conceptuel.


I didn’t know what the show was about before going there and now that I’ve seen it, I still hardly can tell what it was about. However, I enjoyed it so much that I would return there every single night if I could. At first, I didn’t get the point, and I was wondering why everybody was laughing out loud when there was no joke or funny stuff. Just six folks on stage singing and playing instruments. Then, there was a court-métrage about a woman beholding her bathtub with grace and elegant gestures, a bike appearing out of nowhere, and a lesbian kiss on the cold floor. It was art. It was beauty. It was conceptuel. But people around me couldn’t help laughing.

In my head, I yelled at them: “Putain, mais fermez vos gueules, bande d’Américains incultes et débiles ! Y a une bête de performance artistique, là sous vos yeux et vous riez comme des boeufs comme si c'était un film avec Ben Stiller alors que vous devriez juste admirer le fait que des Ricains comme vous sont capables de s’élever au-dessus de la stupidité ambiante ! Fermez-la, merde !" I usually do not say curse words, even in French. This monologue was just in my mind. I was wondering why people were not struck by how much this show was conceptuel.

During the intermission, I went over my natural shyness and asked my neighbours what was so funny about American folks singing "Quand il me prend dans ses bras". They explained me that they knew the actors, so it was fun to see them playing those unexpected roles and that it was not a joke about French stuff, but about the American stereotypes when it comes to French (and German) art contemporain/Nouvelle Vague. So conceptuel.

The French Project is a chef-d’oeuvre to me. What they performed is typically what you can see in a modern art museum or on stage in independent underground shows, or even in the casual French parodies of American movies. You could feel the musical influence of CocoRosie, but also the humour of Les Robins des Bois (here trying to figure out what a breakfast looks like at the Bee Gee’s house), and parodies worthy of Guarrigue Prod (here Britney is trying to plan an orgy with three other folks). But all this is not conceptuel.

Their final performance is astonishing. Partly because of the story of the song "Ça plane pour moi". Released in the late '70s, this song was said-to-be performed by Plastic Bertrand. In June of this year, he eventually confessed that he had not sung a single note of it and that his huge success in France and Belgium was based upon a lie. Fortunately for you, the French Project’s version of it is not a fake at all and is perfectly bewildering (and superior to Plastic Bertrand's version or whoever is really singing). And conceptuel.