French society and French culture have long been at the forefront of pioneering entertainment. Across the centuries, many of the biggest creations, stylistic preferences, and stars in the wider entertainment space have hailed from France. Even today, it’s home to one of the largest publishers in the most modern discipline of the entertainment industry.

Much of what we love about all forms of entertainment today, from digital platforms to live action, wouldn’t have risen to prominence without French intervention. So here, we’re going through some of the biggest forms of entertainment that have roots entrenched in L’Hexagone.


Moving pictures on the big screen

We’re quite familiar with several French actors who have crossed over from their native country and into English-speaking productions, such as Léa Seydoux, Eva Green, Marion Cotillard, Vincent Cassel, and Jean Reno. While they’re likely the biggest French names that come to mind when the movies are brought up, perhaps it should rather be the Lumière brothers or Georges Méliès.

This is because the first moving pictures presented to an audience for a fee – thus creating the modern cinema –were made possible by Auguste and Louis Lumière in December 1895, with the 50-second film The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station being screened to customers. In 1902, it was Méliès who would show A Trip to the Moon, which many consider as the original film with a narrative.

Prior to these innovative moves, Étienne-Jules Marey would coin the phrase chronophotography. This predecessor to cinematic film was a process of taking several photographs of people moving between states. It was primarily used for scientific study before being manipulated into entertainment spheres. Now, the idea of being cinematic goes much further than the cinema itself and continues to influence how other products are advertised to us in trailers.

Pure randomization as entertainment

Casino gaming is one of the longest-standing forms of evening entertainment in Europe, and the French have long been at the heart of this organized style of play. Such activities have been around since the ancient Greeks and Napoleon’s France, with the first official gambling house being in Venice. However, once it became widespread across French aristocracy, new games were swiftly invented, with the most longstanding being roulette, which is drawn from the French for small wheel.

Invented by Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, in the 17th century, its true origins are said to be a development from the likes of portique, but still within the borders of France. To this day, French roulette remains the most player-friendly and sought-after form of the classic table game. As the French variant only has one zero pocket, the additional racetrack betting area, and rules that make instances like the zero landing much less punishing, it remains a firm favorite even with modern inventions like Gridiron Roulette or Multifire Auto Roulette.

Gaming Music

Repurposing little snippets of classic tunes

Have you ever wondered why you recognize key beats or lyrics in some of the biggest hits of modern music? It’s because of the French and the sometimes subtle art of sampling music. The practice can take snippets from just about any musical composition, be it the melody or a short drum line, to then layer it into another track that’s different from the original in every other way.

Sampling is seen as taking place as far back as the 1940s, with the French genre of music known as Musique Concrète being cited as its origins. The whole point of ‘concrete music’ was to use other recorded sounds as raw material to then be modified or put into a sound collage of sorts. Now, some of the most famous music artists in the world, including the rejected Kanye West, are famed for their sampling skills.

Edge of Seventeen has been sampled from Stevie Nicks and into the Destiny’s Child track Bootylicious, Rapper’s Delight by Sugar Hill Gang draws from Good Times by Chic, and The Clash, Black Sabbath, and Led Zeppelin were sampled in the Beastie Boys track Rhymin & Stealin’. Back to “Ye,” though, and you can hear samples woven into his work from Jay-Z, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Daft Punk, Elton John, Tears For Fears, Nina Simone, Black Sabbath, Bon Iver, and many others.

Cinema, roulette, and music sampling all remain major sources of entertainment for millions of people around the world, and in all of them, the French had a founding hand.


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