Collage curtesy of MYNA MORAMENTO RAFI

Continuing the series of songs with names in the title. So how many do you think Mylene has? Comment below if you know the answer.

“Tristana” is a 1987 song recorded by Mylène Farmer. Fourth single from her first studio album Cendres de Lune, the song was released in February 1987. Just like the previous single “Libertine”, the music video was produced as a film, with many extras and a huge budget. First song entirely written by the singer herself, it enjoyed an intense promotion on television and met a great success in France, reaching the top ten.

After the success of “Libertine”, the duo Farmer-Boutonnat sought to repeat their musical feat. In January 1987, Farmer performed “Au bout de la nuit” during a television show dedicated to Guy Béart, which indicated that the song was scheduled as her fifth single. However, Boutonnat had composed a new music and had asked Farmer to write lyrics that could be sung with this music.

It was Thierry Rogen who mixed the song.

Although media insinuated that Mylene draw her inspiration from Luis Buñuel’s film Tristana, with Catherine Deneuve, they were wrong (haha! again!). I bet she loves to play the peekaboo with the media 🙂

She actually referred to Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina as an inspirational source. Really? I felt Anna Karenina connection before in the very beginning of this project and particularly in the XXL with the train allegory and I thought I was crazy.

In fact, Farmer stated she had not seen the film Tristana (me neither, you?) before the song’s writing, saying: “It’s true that Tristana is a Spanish name, and I when I thought Tristana, I thought Russian.” I guess I can see the sound resemblance: “Karenina” (which is actually the last name) “Tatiana”, “Elena”, Ella 😊 haha! Just had to give you a wink here. But on the serious note, Anna Karenina is a brilliant novel and I hope some of you actually read it (and I surely hope Mylene is one of you). To me there is more connection to Doctor Zhivago which is telling an epic love story during revolutionary civil war in Russia 1918-1922.

“It is true that Tristana does not look like Libertine even if they are on the same album but I did not want in any way to imitate or plagiarize Libertine because it does not interest me. ” (Mylène Farmer – “Graffiti” – March 1987)

“Tristana is a text which perhaps came at a great moment of despair. ” (Mylène Farmer – “Top50” – 08/06/1987)

Finally, this song was released instead of “Au bout de la nuit” as this song was deemed as too slow. (it baffles me every time when for some reasons the songs are valued by their tempo and not by quality…I personally think “Au bout de la nuit” is an amazing song).

Well, anyhow Tristana is clearely a hit and the whole album Cendres de Lune had a great success and was more released in CD edition in 1987; “Tristana” was added to the track listing in its both studio and remix versions.

The song deals with Farmer’s favorite themes which has been regularly used in her next songs: blood and death. According to L’Est Républicain, “the fragility released by the texts can be found in the establishment of the instruments. For the occasion, flute, keyboards, percussion were treated in the manner of drum machines”. About the music, Farmer said: “We tried to give a little Slavic color, an atmosphere from Ukraine, to the song. Of course, the pan flute, it’s not really Russian, but it contributes to this climate. And it’s also a little oriental”. (preview for later to come L’Ame Stram Gram”)

Well, from the Russian stand point, I got off the bet what she is trying to do. It’s a Snow White and seven dwarfs transported to the Russian settings as the outsider might imagine them: a fairy tale within a fairy tale so to speak. But I found it truly endearing that she actually wanted to try herself as a Russian heroine and it made me feel even closer to her. So it’s a happy video for my Russian soul despite the sad story (would not be Mylene-Boutonnat)

The video, directed by Laurent Boutonnat, was shot for five days in April 1987 in La Chapelle-en-Vercors, France and at the Sets studios in Stains. So much for Russia! 😊 But I adore how she speaks Russian! By the way her “boyfriend” (played by sculptor Vladimir Ivtchenko) is really Russian and has no accent. Did you notice a documentary was embedded with Lenin and the revolution as an attempt to remind of the Evil that took place and how much of innocent blood was spilled ☹

In the end when he asks into the open space almost rhetorically: “Are you alive or dead? I love you” – it applies in the broader sense to the entire Russia and its cruel history and not only to Tristana.

This Polydor production cost about 450,000 francs (70,000 euros) and lasts 11:33, which was then the most expensive video of all times and remains the second longest one of Farmer, the first one being “Pourvu qu’elles soient douces“.

By the way, it is almost impossible to find a full-length video in the US. Thank god for vimeo!

The Evil Tsarina is played by Sophie Tellier, multi-talented woman, a dancer, who had also featured as Farmer’s enemy in “Libertine”. In an interview, Farmer said it was easier for her to speak Russian in the video as she apparently had learned the language at school. Well, then it will be a piece a cake for us to talk – common, Mylene! I can’t wait!

Today I came across another “Russian Connection” this time not to Mylene but to Boutonnat (of course, it had to become apparent today when I work on Tristana! Nicely done, Synchronicity…!). Anyone of you aware what that connection is? Comment below or forever hold your peace – LOL

The monk was played by Sacha Prijovic. The actor who portrayed the peasant was very tense during the shooting and drank vodka to ease the nerves – and that shows 😊

Sophie Tellier actively took part in the recruitment and rehearsal of the dancers featuring in the video and confessed to being quite surprised by the power of the special effects used when she saw the video for the first time. Initially, the furniture of the dwarfs’ house was not designed on the right scale, which upset the designer Emmanuel Sorin and made Farmer laugh. Dangerous wolves used in the video were actually disguised huskies, which belonged to Christian and Gaétan, Boutonnat’s friends, who owned a farm in Normandy.

It premiered at the UGC Normandie des Champs-Elysées on May 6, 1987.

“The choreography, which I did, therefore, I wanted it very visual, but very close the mood of the song. That is to say, for me, which evokes a little bit of Russia, a slightly Slavic atmosphere, so I wanted, like that, species of black birds behind me, a not very rigid … That’s how it was imagined. And then afterwards, my faith, it’s a bit of work anyway! “(Mylène Farmer – Unpublished interview – 1987)

It took three weeks of work to create and work on Tristana’s choreography .

The costumes worn by Mylène for the television performances on this song were chosen to also evoke Russia.

The film is dedicated to Max Gautier (A papa…) Some stated it is because he had recently passed away although according to the other sources, he died July 11 1989 so I am not always sure who to trust with this information. If you, my dear fan-friends, know, please comment below.

The video was often praised, even presented as an event in the media and eventually broadcast for the first time on 6 May 1987 at Cinéma Normandie on the Champs-Élysées. Violet described the video as an “aesthetic” feature film, with a “fast and sophisticated editing” and “an obvious concern for composition”. However, given its unusual length, television channels were reluctant to broadcast it, and thereby Boutonnat decided to release a video album entitled Les Clips that contained the first four videos of Farmer.

Cool stated the song “reveals the original universe of Farmer: mystery, hushed atmosphere, sweet voice”. To Foto Musique, “the music superbly refined prevents despair to settle”. Rock Musique considered that this song has an “undeniable charm” and Télé Loisirs praised the song for its “aestheticism”. Pilote said that with this song, Farmer “pulls through better and better”, and Paroles deemed that “the climate of malicious strangeness is undeniable (…), her naughty and indecent songs practice their seduction”. Author Erwan Chuberre considered “Tristana” as the “worthy successor of “Libertine”, a new lushly romantic hit”.

In France, the single debuted at number 33 on the SNEP chart. It gained a few places every week until reaching a peak of number seven on 13 June. The song managed to stay for twelve weeks in the top 20 and 21 weeks on the chart, from 25 April to 12 September 1987. Like Farmer’s previous single “Libertine”, “Tristana” was certified Silver disc by SNEP in 1987 for a minimum of 200,000 copies sold, thus becoming one of the ten biggest hits of the singer.

In December 2017, the song was released as a maxi vinyl and re-entered the chart at number 18, staying for three weeks in the top 200.

In 1987, Farmer appeared on many French channels such as TF1, Antenne 2, FR3, Canal + and France 5 to promote the song. She then performed “Tristana” in a total of 26 television shows from 19 February to 15 December in which she was sometimes interviewed before or after her performance. On certain shows, she also sang “Au Bout de la nuit”, “La Ronde triste” and “Sans contrefaçon”.

I love the stage moves and those “Russian” outfits…my heart is just melting into the warm baby pool of adoration. I can’t help it! Isn’t she just adorable? I just want to hug her and feed her borsht and oladushki (Russian crapes) 😊

At each performance, Mylene wore a special costume, and, for the first time, she performed a choreography with dancers. She always sang “Tristana” in lip sync, except in the show La Nouvelle Affiche on 1 April 1987, but there were a few problems with the sound during this performance and Farmer had difficulty to sing in high notes. Because of this, Farmer has not sung in live until 2003.

“Tristana” was sung on stage only during the 1989 tour. Then Farmer wore a red coatdress, red boots and leather gloves, the female dancers were dressed as Russian farmers and the male dancers as Soviet soldiers. The choreography was based on the video: first performed by all the dancers, then by Farmer and two soldiers. After the performance, the singer left the stage being hugged by two dancers.

The Tristana declaration form (dated January 15, 1987) posted on the Sacem Museum website

Tristana is included:
In concert (1989) in live version,
Dance Remixes (1992) in remixed version,
Les mots (2001),
the Best Of Vol1 / Vol2 box set (2011).

Tour 1989

Mylène only performed Tristana on stage during the Tour 89 concerts . Arrangements for the stage: Laurent Boutonnat and Bruno Fontaine. Choreography: Mylène Farmer. A painting that is reminiscent of the Russian atmosphere of the clip, in particular thanks to the costumes created by Thierry Mugler.

“On the first scene, apart from two or three outfits, Thierry Mugler was not that far ahead. That is to say, he agreed to lend his talent but also to respect his universe. For Tristana, for example, he had Russian coats with scarves, gloves: it’s not very Thierry Mugler!  ” (Mylène Farmer – Radio Nostalgie – 11/30/1996). More about Thierry Mugler READ HERE

The cutest moment in the costumes is the fingerless gloves. It was always the funniest part for my Russian friends watching the video. If you’d grew up in Russia (like I did) you know you can’t survive winters with temperatures of -25, -35 C in gloves like that. You’d lose your fingers and hands all together.

As a kid we wore sheep skin or wool knit mittens to keep our little hands warm.




lyrics with translation

Triste elle est prête à tout
Pour rien, pour tout
Dans la ronde des fous elle pleure tout doux
L'amour a tué les mots qui la touchent, touchent
Contre ta bouche elle veut qu'on la couche

Triste elle fait la grimace,
Devant sa glace
D'un coup du cœur enlace l'ombre qui passe
Et rien jamais n'effacera les traces, lâches
Du sang qui coule des corps qui se cassent

Adieu Tristana
Ton cœur a pris froid
Adieu Tristana
Dieu baisse les bras
Laissez-la partir
Laissez-la mourir
Ne le dites pas
Tristana, c'est moi !

Triste sort Tristana
Tu sais, crois-moi
Trois petits tours, elle s'en va
La vie comme ça
Les plus beaux jours s'achèvent dans la peine, haine
Pourquoi faut-il payer de ses veines

Adieu Tristana
Ton cœur a pris froid
Adieu Tristana
Dieu baisse les bras
Laissez-la partir
Laissez-la mourir
Ne le dites pas
Tristana, c'est moi !
Sad she's ready for all
For none, for all
Among a circle of fools she cries softly
Love has killed the words that have touched her
Touched her.
Across your mouth she wants to be layed down

She sadly grimaces
Before her mirror
Faint of heart embraces the shadow that's passed
And nothing will ever erase the traces, cowards
Blood flowing from the bodies that have broken

Goodbye Tristana
Your heart became cold
Goodbye Tristana
God has let go
Let her go
Let her die
Don't say it
Tristana, it's me!

Sad fate, Tristana
You know, believe me
Three tiny turns, she is gone
Life is like this
The most beautiful days end up in sorrow,
Why do you have to pay with your veins?

God has let go
Let her go
Let her die
Don't say it
Tristana, it's me!

The page last edited August 3, 2022

One thought on “

  1. Sacré travail réalisé! bravo Ella. J’ai bien aimé l’histoire des mitaines (les gants sans doigt), peut-être qu’il y a beaucoup d’erreurs pour une personne qui connait bien la Russie mais c’est fait avec tellement de respect et d’amour qu’on pardonne à Mylène! 😉
    Je suis d’accord avec toi: c’est vrai que cela rappelle Docteur Jivago!!
    Je ne savais pas que “Au bout de la nuit” aurait dû sortir à la place de “Tristana”, j’aurais bien aimé que cette chanson sulfureuse est aussi un clip!! je l’aime beaucoup même si je suis bien contente que “Tristana” a son clip, que je trouve très beau!!

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