Jeanne Moreau: ‘le Tourbillon De La Vie’

The song ‘Le Tourbillon de la vie’, sung by actress Jeanne Moreau in famous Nouvelle Vague film Jules et Jim, tells the story of a man and his helpless love for a femme fatale. In the film, Moreau’s character, Catherine, is herself a femme fatale figure, whose involvement with both of the eponymous protagonists brings about grave consequences.

If you are learning French, this song is a really good way of revising the different forms of the past tense. Firstly, we see the use of the imperfect in phrases such as ‘elle avait des bagues’, to describe a continued or habitual state or action. Then comes the passé simple, a literary tense which is employed to evoke an action completed in a moment which is cut off from the present. An example of this can be found in the line ‘qui, sitôt, m’enjôla’. Finally, we see perhaps the most recognisable of past tense forms, the passé composé, or perfect tense, in phrases such as ‘on s’est connu, on s’est reconnu’.

French Lyrics

Elle avait des bagues à chaque doigt
Des tas de bracelets autour des poignets
Et puis elle chantait avec une voix
Qui, sitôt, m’enjôla

Elle avait des yeux, des yeux d’opale
Qui me fascinaient, qui me fascinaient
Y avait l’ovale de son visage pâle
De femme fatale qui m’fut fatal
De femme fatale qui m’fut fatal

On s’est connu, on s’est reconnu
On s’est perdu de vue, on s’est r’perdu d’vue
On s’est retrouvé, on s’est réchauffé
Puis on s’est séparé

Chacun pour soi est reparti
Dans l’tourbillon de la vie
Je l’ai revue un soir, aïe, aïe, aïe
Ça fait déjà un fameux bail
Ça fait déjà un fameux bail

Au son des banjos je l’ai reconnue
Ce curieux sourire qui m’avait tant plu
Sa voix si fatale, son beau visage pâle
M’émurent plus que jamais

Je me suis soûlé en l’écoutant
L’alcool fait oublier le temps
Je me suis réveillé en sentant
Des baisers sur mon front brûlant
Des baisers sur mon front brûlant

On s’est connu, on s’est reconnu
On s’est perdu de vue, on s’est r’perdu de vue
On s’est retrouvé, on s’est séparé
Puis on s’est réchauffé

Chacun pour soi est reparti
Dans l’tourbillon de la vie
Je l’ai revue un soir ah! là là
Elle est retombée dans mes bras
Elle est retombée dans mes bras

Quand on s’est connu, quand on s’est reconnu
Pourquoi s’perdre de vue, se reperdre de vue ?
Quand on s’est retrouvé, quand on s’est réchauffé
Pourquoi se séparer?

Alors tous deux on est repartis
Dans le tourbillon de la vie
On a continué à tourner
Tous les deux enlacés
Tous les deux enlacés
Tous les deux enlacés

English Lyrics

She had rings on every finger,
Heaps of bracelets around her wrists
And then she sang with a voice
Which, made me fall for her straight away.

She had eyes, opal coloured eyes,
That fascinated me, that fascinated me
There was the oval of her pale face,
Of the femme fatale who, for me, was fatal
Of the femme fatale who, for me, was fatal.

We got to know each other, we got to know each other,
We lost sight of each other, over and over again,
We refound each other and kept each other warm,
Then we separated

Each of us took separate paths,
Into the whirlwind of life,
I saw her again one evening, oh oh oh,
It’s been a long time now,
It’s been a long time now.

Hearing the sound of banjos I recognised her
That curious smile which had so attracted me,
That utterly fatal voice, that beautiful, pale face,
Moved me more than ever.

I got drunk listening to her,
Alcohol makes me forget time,
I woke up, feeling
Kisses burning on my forehead,
Kisses burning on my forehead

We met each other, we recognised each other,
We lost sight of each other, over and over again,
We refound each other, we separated,
Then we kept each other warm.

Each of us took separate paths,
Into the whirlwind of life,
I saw her again one evening, oh là là !
She fell back into my arms
She fell back into my arms.

When we met, when we recognised each other
Why lose sight of each other, again and again,
When we’ve found each other again, and kept each other warm,
Why should we separate?

So both of us, we took different paths,
Into the whirlwind of life,
We continued to whirl,
Both of us entwined,
Both of us entwined,
Both of us entwined.

You can watch a clip of the song here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcVcwwo8QFE