A massive flock of sheep – and horses – running through the streets Marseille? That was the spectacular grand final of the TransHumance project – one of the many kooky happenings that took place during MP2013. A whimsical project: a  long procession of animals crossed the Provence region on their way to Marseille, putting in motion an itinerant series of art  events and encouraging the public to ride along the way. …

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Books, films, music, art and big ideas to get you into the Marseilles headspace...

Je Danse le Mia

‘Le Mia’ is slang to describe the typical show-off guy from Marseilles (a sort of pre-cursor to ‘bling’) and a useful concept to know if you are planning to visit the city. Je Danse le Mia remains the most popular success of local band IAM – the fathers of French hip-hop. The 1994 song, and the brilliant video clip by French director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind etc), takes an ironic look back at Marseilles’ 80′s party scene and samples Give me the night by George Benson. …

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In Marseilles, even to lose you have to know how to fight. Jean-Claude Izzo

Le Corbusier by Lucien Herve

“In 1949 the photographer Lucien Hervé took photographs of Unité d’Habitation, an innovative apartment building in Marseille. He sent them to the building’s architect, Le Corbusier, who immediately realised that after forty years of searching he had finally found a photographer with an ‘architect’s soul’.” – Thames & Hudson

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Made in Marseilles

We love the dreamy, poetic, eclectic world of Marseille-based fashion label Sessùn, which was founded 15 years ago by Emma Francois, a former anthropology student with a passion for travel (at least two things we have in common). Her collections are often feminine and cute without being girly, it’s simple yet quietly sophisticated, it’s not too crazy expensive either. The good news is with shops and corners opening everywhere including Berlin and London you don’t need to travel to Marseille to find Sessùn, but if you do make sure you stage a pilgrimage to the original Sessùn Boutique rue Sainte Anne. If you ‘like’ what you see, you may also want to check out Emma’s music recommendations on her excellent blog …

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Marseilles’ Skate Park

Marseilles’ legendary beachside Skatepark is the meeting point for all kind of yoofs on wheels – but that doesn’t usually include Vespa riders! Check out local character Boulon’s unexpected ride shot by videographer JC Pieri. (Now we know where Marseilles scooter riders get their techniques.) …

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Sauve ton Pote

You want to save your mate who is in danger? Marseilles’ emergency medical services  have put together a First aid instruction video… in rap…in collaboration with local rapper Jean-Marie of CF Clan NORD… Surreal result, but kinda useful if you are planning to live dangerously while in town …

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Total Chaos

‘Total Chaos” – what a great strap-line for Marseilles! – is the first installment of Jean-Clause Izzo’s Mediterranean thriller trilogy. Featuring disillusioned cop Fabio Montale, it’s a perfect introduction to the complexities of Marseille: crime and beauty, racism and fraternity, despair and sensuality, tragedy and humor. In Total Chaos Fabio Montale attempts to resolve the murders of his boyhood chums, Ugo and Manu, exposing the stronghold of the mafia over the city. The book, like Marseilles, is both noir and optimistic, and ultimately a lovely, intimate portrait of France’s only truly multicultural city …

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Vies d’artistes

Here’s trouble.  French + Argentinian + raised in Marseille = an explosive cocktail! Meet Keny Arkana, one of the most popular female rappers in the country. She’s Anti-globalization, Anti-OGM, Anti-pollution and a big advocate of Civil Disobedience. What’s not to like???  In contrast with her ‘bling bling’ American counterparts, Keny’s rap is a constant call for change, ‘La Revolution s’il vous plait!‘… Here’s the video from her latest hit – Vie d’Artiste – which is quite a moving look back at where she comes from – and why she has no intention of getting sucked into the artist’s life where success = sell-out equation. Go girl. …

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Watt: Teaser

As a port city Marseilles is a traditional trading post and first-port-of-call for migrants. The city acts as a kind of portal between France and North Africa. The Watt musical residences that form part of the MP2013 programme celebrate this mish-mash of cultural interaction in the arena of music.

Zaha Hadid tower

It is probably not Zaha Hadid’s finest work, but the 147 m high CMA-CGM tower has become a bold fixture in Marseille’s otherwise low-fi skyline. The tower is a bit of an eyesore (coming from great fans of Zaha Hadid’s work) but best enjoyed at sunset when the sun reflects on its mirrored surface to create a somehow magical spectacle. Alas, it’s not open to the public as it’s the headoffice of a shipping conglomerate. Check out Exmagina’s lovely tilt-shifted short film about it. …

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Zidane: a 21st Century Portrait

Who else than local football great Zinedine Zidane to embody Marseille’s unique spirit: its multicultural heritage, pure class, genial flair with a dash of indiscipline? This feature documentary by video artists Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno should appeal beyond the football fanatics. The premise is simple: 17 HD cameras film a single game of football focussing entirely on one player on the field, ‘Zizou’. The result is unexpected. Beautiful, poetic, often hipnotic, ‘Zidane’ evokes the grunt, the harshness and ultimately the loneliness of a football star on the field. Oh, and it ends with a red card …

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Portrait de ville: Marseille

Portrait de Ville: Marseille is is a small but delectable volume of photography by Olivier Amsellem, produced for the City Portraits series by  boutique publishers Be-Pôles. Fans can check out Amsellem’s personal travel guide to Marseilles here on Vogue

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