Film

The 10 Best Animated Films With Paris as a Backdrop

Known for romance and the rococo, France and its main city Paris have long been fodder for filmmakers. Here's ten examples of how animation has treated the celebrated City of Light.

For live action features, there is no city like Paris. The bistros. The sidewalk cafes. The bakeries filled with baguettes and croissant. The nightclubs with their exotic can-can dancers. Every cliche in the cinematic book. Fimmakers from Woody Allen to innumerable French auteurs like Renoir and Chabrol love the gorgeous city of light. It exudes elegance and romance. It offers stunning locations and famous landmarks. It's a backdrop with a bounty of available angles and approaches. It's also an easy symbol, shortcut for emotions otherwise needing explanation or examination. Of course, not every genre finds the town as tantalizing. While cartoons occasionally visit the banks of the River Seine (it's the home to Pepe Le Pew, after all), most pen and ink offerings avoid the city.

Still, there are a few celebrated examples of Paris as an animated backdrop. In recognition of the latest (see number four on our list, out of DVD and Blu-ray this week), we bring you this collection of 10 films that made the magical metropolis their narrative home. Many are well known and acclaimed. Others are so obscure it requires an encyclopedic knowledge of the artform to discover their delights. In all cases, Paris plays an important part in the storyline, highlighting the humorous, and sometimes hazardous existence along the Champs elysees. In all cases, the artists have found unique and iconic ways of representing the famous skyline, bringing everything from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower to vivid life. Even something geared specifically to the elementary school set (like our number ten choice) does a great job of showing why Paris is such a special place.

 
#10 - Rugrats in Paris
In this sequel to the popular film, which was in turn based on the well loved Nickelodeon TV series, we find Tommy Pickles and his pals traveling to the title locale to find a new mom for depressed buddy Chuckie Finister. Once in Paris, they run into the villainous Coco LaBouche, who needs the kids to help her take over an amusement park. With its wonky animation style and clever grown-up references (including homages to Bugsy Malone and The Godfather), this remains the best of the Rugrats efforts - and a nice Parisian primer for the wee ones.

 
#9 - Anastasia
Only part of this film takes place in Paris. The rest tells the urban legend version of the Russian Grand Duchess and her "survival" of a curse placed on her family by the mad monk Rasputin. Co-directed by Don Bluth (best known as a House of Mouse exile and the mastermind behind several celebrated efforts like The Secret of NIHM, An American Tale, and The Land Before Time) and featuring many of the genre staples (songs, cute creatures), it was an unexpected hit. It was also the first film from Fox's Animation division.

 
#8 - The Aristocats
As the '70s started, Disney's post-Walt work truly began to suffer. Though he personally approved this film, he died four years before its release and the lack of his input on the final product shows. There are many who enjoy this buoyant effort, including the voice work of Eva Gabor, Phil Harris, and Scatman Crothers. On the other hand, when compared to what came before, as well as what was soon to come, this uneven effort indicates a company without clear creative leadership. Not as bad as one remembers, but definitely not a Golden Era Classic.

 
#7 - Alice in Wonderland in Paris
As odd as any entry on this list. A post-Wonderland Alice daydreams about visiting Paris. Almost immediately, she is visited by a magical mouse who offers her some enchanted cheese. Before you can see "eat me" our heroine has shrunk down to rodent size and sets off for adventures in the city of light. What we then get are adaptations of five short stories, almost none of them linked to a fall down a rabbit hole or a walk through Lewis Carroll's creative playground. Surreal, and rather strange.

 
#6 - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
As part of Disney's mid-'90s dip back toward the routine and mundane, this movie has many detractors. After all, how do you take Victor Hugo's book about a deformed, lovesick bell-ringing and turn it into a feel good musical? Well, the House of Mouse tried, and the results were uneven if entertaining. In fact, many critics complimented the company for not going overboard with the sap, though many found the songs beyond maudlin. Still, the character design and animation are amazing, giving this film a look that often surpasses its story.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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