Petula Clark

Live at the Paris Olympia [Video]

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In a career dating back to the early 1940s, Petula Clark has succeeded in various aspects of show business in various countries, and many are reflected in this concert recording from Paris, made when she was 70 (but sounding at least 20 years younger). Beginning as a child star on radio in the U.K., she branched out into television and films in the 1950s as a juvenile, then moved to France and became a French pop star in the late '50s and early '60s. In 1964, she remade herself with the help of songwriter/producer Tony Hatch and scored a series of British and American hits starting with "Downtown" over the next few years, the period for which she is best known in the U.S. By the late '60s, she had moved back into film with Finian's Rainbow and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and she later established herself in the musical theater with appearances in such shows as Sunset Boulevard and Blood Brothers. Speaking in French (with English subtitles available), she addresses much of this history in the 90-minute concert, including stories about her encounters with Fred Astaire and Charlie Chaplin, among others. (Director Christophe Mourthé, who is a bit too fond of slanted "Dutch angle" shots, throws in the odd photograph to illustrate the anecdotes.) She also sings many of her transatlantic pop hits of the '60s and songs from her films and shows. The performances are almost uniformly impressive. (An exception is her rendition of "With One Look" from Sunset Boulevard, which is marred by what she must think of as an American accent. It doesn't sound like any known American accent, it just sounds odd.) Clark sings pop, rock, and show tunes equally well, and she has the gift of great song interpreters to make even mediocre material sound good, notably "Tell Me It's Not True" from Blood Brothers. There is also an audio version of this concert released simultaneously on CD, but the two versions differ in content. The CD includes a medley of Clark's French hits missing on the DVD, but excludes a few other French songs featured on the DVD, such as Jacques Brel's "Un Enfant" and her own self-written novelty "Que Fais-Tu Là Petula?" ("What Are You Doing There, Petula?"), which humorously treats the subject of her French career from a British perspective. The DVD also includes a 24-minute backstage documentary that includes a good interview as the singer prepares to go on-stage.

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