mon 15/08/2022

Cloclo | reviews, news & interviews



Fantasy-fuelled biopic of French icon and 'My Way' composer Claude François

Cloclo: Jérémie Renier as blonde dynamo Claude François

Claude François doesn’t have the hipster cachet of Serge Gainsbourg, but he did lead an extraordinary life and died young. He also wrote “Comme d’habitude” which was Anglicised to become “My Way”. His live shows were spectacular, the women he married, dated and flirted with were striking, he had tax debts, a father who rejected him and his chosen career, and a mother addicted to gambling. It’s more than enough to fuel this two-and-a-half hour biopic.

But Cloclo isn’t going to lead to an Anglophone embracing of François – universally known by the nickname Cloclo. However strong the image, his music just isn’t that good. Writing the song that became “My Way” was a one-off and assures him a kind of immortality, but it’s not enough. Frank Sinatra is a recurring presence throughout the film, cropping up as hopeful nudge that this is where François should be positioned. But his French-language versions of The Four Seasons’ and Four Tops’ hits didn’t make a mark worldwide in the Sixties and won’t posthumously. The same goes for his Seventies take on disco. He will remain a local delicacy.

Cloclo Jérémie RenierJérémie Renier is fantastic as François (pictured right). He already looked the part, and he ha more than embraced the role. He actually is the blonde dynamo. As Janet Woollacot, the British dancer who was François' first wife and stolen by smooth-chops chanteur Gilbert Bécaud, Maud Jaurz plays it like Jane Birkin, staking a claim to the prototype of the Brit-girl abroad in France. His father conforms to a more universal biopic stereotype, the patrician and unbending disciplinarian who would never approve of this pop malarkey. Just as typically, François spends his life trying to win the approval of dad, even after the old man's death.

François is by no means treated with awe here. Some of the things he did are monstrous. Chief amongst his offences is hiding the fact that he had a second child. Then, when he had to admit it he used both kids for a photo opportunity. His attitude to women was governed by whether or not they were a threat. His girlfriend, the singer and Gainsbourg protégé France Gall, wins Eurovision. So he instantly elbows her. After that, he keeps the ladies where they belong: at home, ready to be wheeled out at parties wielding plates of hors d’oeuvres.

Cloclo Jérémie RenierIt would be expected that a film recreating the story of a national icon would have taken care to get things right. The recurrence of Frank Sinatra is a plot device – and marketing tool – and doesn’t trip anything up, but lazy anachronisms rankle. Gall and François are seen at an Otis Redding show in London – the date would have to be before her Eurovision win in March 1965, after which François dumped Gall. Redding first played Europe, including Paris, in 1967. Would François’s brother-in-law have had hair that long and a Beatle-style moustache in 1962? Doubtful. Singles have injection-moulded centres, a process adopted in the Seventies. Specific to the English version are some quirks in the subtitles. François doesn’t like a magazine cover, objecting to being given the “hippy treatment”. The dialogue actually says that he didn’t want to be seen like Michel Polnareff, France's most outré pop star of the time.

More perplexing is the absence of World War II. François was born in 1939 and grew up in Egypt. The Suez Crisis of 1956 is covered – it had to be, as it meant the François family fled to France. Did the events of 1939-1945 have no impact on Egypt? Or on François and his family?

Cloclo starts with young Claude’s future being read in coffee grounds. Fittingly, the film is a fantasy, a reading of a life where events and timelines are reconfigured at random. Any of the events on the screen could be fabrications. This tribute to a quixotic and driven idol is great fun. But it’s little more than that.

Visit Kieron Tyler’s blog

Watch the trailer for Cloclo


Claude François didn’t make a mark world-wide in the Sixties and won’t posthumously. He will remain a local delicacy


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters