French music festival refuses pressure to drop rocker who killed girlfriend

The organisers of a music festival in northern France have defied pressure to pull a once-idolised French rocker, who beat his actress girlfriend to death, from their summer line-up.

French music festival refuses pressure to drop rocker who killed girlfriend
Photo: AFP

Over 60,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Bertrand Cantat, former frontman of Noir Desir, be removed from the programme of the Papillons de Nuit festival, which runs from May 18 to 20 in the Normandy town of Saint-Laurent-de-Cuves.

“By putting Bertrand Cantat in the spotlight you are normalising violence against women and even condoning it,” reads the petition on the website started by a self-described “citizen feminist”.

The organisers of the festival, which drew 68,000 rock fans in 2017, have rejected the call, saying in a statement: “We consider that our only criteria should be artistic.”

In a short profile of 53-year-old Cantat on their website, which the petition criticises, Cantat is described as a “having lost nothing of his brooding nature, rage and critical thinking”.

Cantat, whose group enjoyed cult status in France in the 1990s, killed Marie Trintignant in a hotel room while on tour in Lithuania in 2003.

Trintignant, a well-known figure in cinema and theatre, suffered severe brain damage after Cantat beat her during a fight and later died from her injuries.

The killing sent shockwaves through France, where Cantat was known as a champion of social causes.

He was sentenced to eight years in prison of which he served four years before being released on parole in 2007.

In recent years, he has dismayed Trintignant's family by returning to the stage, making his comeback in 2013 with a new group, Detroit.

On Thursday, he begins touring with his first solo album, Amor Fati (a Latin phrase associated with Friedrich Nietzsche meaning “a love of fate”) kicking off with a concert in the western city of La Rochelle.

The management of the theatre where he will perform Thursday said it had received only “three or four disapproving emails”.

Cantat plans several other dates in the coming months, only one of which has been cancelled due to local opposition.

Last year, as the outrage over sexual violence triggered by the Harvey Weinstein affair in the US was building, rock magazine Les Inrockuptibles was accused of glorifying Cantat by putting him on its cover.

The magazine apologised.


8 of French duo Daft Punk’s most memorable moments

One of the era's defining dancefloor acts hung up their helmets on Monday, as French electronic music stars Daft Punk announced their retirement in a typically enigmatic fashion with a video showing one of them exploding in a desert.

8 of French duo Daft Punk's most memorable moments
Photo: AFP

From Da Funk in 1995 to Get Lucky in 2013, Daft Punk became the torch-bearers for French house music across the globe, winning six Grammy awards and pioneering the monumental sound-and-light shows that came to characterise the electronic dance movement (EDM) of recent years.

They did so while almost never revealing their faces — the ubiquitous helmets became another much-copied trope of EDM stars, but also afforded Thomas Bangalter, 46, and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, 47, a freedom from the fame that quickly encircled them.

“We have daily lives that are a lot more normal than the lives of artists who have the same level of fame as us, but who might be attached to being physically recognised,” Bangalter said in a rare authorised documentary by the BBC in 2015.

Here are some of the highlights of their career – although for our money nothing will beat the French army band’s performance of a Daft Punk medley at the Bastille Day celebrations in 2017, in front of president Emmanuel Macron and a plainly bemused Donald Trump.

1. “Daft punky thrash”

Bangalter and Homem-Christo met at school in Paris before an inauspicious start in music with the rock band Darlin’, which also featured a future member of the French indie band Phoenix.

One review in the British music press dismissed the band as “daft punky thrash” — which struck a chord with them.

Reemerging as an electronic outfit, they met with instant success.

This interview from 1995 is one of the few images of their faces:

2. Their signature look in “Around the World”

Early singles “Da Funk” and “Around the World” became club fixtures, and led to massive sales for their debut album “Homework” in 1997.

It was in the video for “Around the World” that they first donned the helmets that would become their signature look. It mirrored the tight control they exercised over every part of their career, which included ownership of their master recordings.

3. “One More Time”

They followed up with the even more successful “Discovery” in 2001, which spawned the hits “One More Time” and “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”.

There were some distinctively left-field choices in the years that followed, including producing the 2003 film “Interstella 5555” by Japanese anime master Leiji Matsumoto, which featured music from “Discovery”.

4. Human After All

While their next album in 2005, a more sombre “Human After All”, received mixed reviews, these were quickly forgotten amid the euphoria of their live shows over the next two years.

This included a headline appearance at US festival Coachella in 2006, performed inside a giant LED pyramid. EDM fans still speak about it with an almost religious reverence.

5. Tron soundtrack

In 2010, they released a soundtrack to the Disney reboot of Tron, which picked up a Grammy nomination.

6. “Random Access Memories”

But no one predicted the massive success of their last album, 2013’s “Random Access Memories”, for which they gave up their usual makeshift home rig for a full commercial studio– and used entirely live instruments.

The resulting work dominated album-of-the-year lists and helped lift their total worldwide sales to 12 million. It won four Grammies the following year including record of the year for “Get Lucky”, the millions-selling lead single featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers.

Their appearance at the Grammy Awards show was their last public appearance for three years.

7. “I Feel It Coming”

They showed up one more time for the Grammy ceremony in 2017, alongside The Weeknd, after collaborating on the Canadian artist’s most recent album.

Despite the Twittersphere erupting in excitement last month amid rumours they would rejoin The Weeknd for the Super Bowl half-time show, that did not in the end materialise. 

8. “Epilogue”

The video titled “Epilogue” announcing their split used footage from their cult 2006 film “Electroma” in which one of the robots sets the auto-destruct of the other.

A cutaway then reads “1993-2021” with two robot hands making a circle around a sunset.

Their publicist, Kathryn Frazier, confirmed the news to AFP by email, without giving a reason for the split.