DVD Review: Cloclo, (12), (150 mins), released on DVD on September 3,

There are many, many things you really shouldn’t attempt in the bath. Fairly near the top of the list is fiddling with a light bulb.

Claude François didn’t live to regret it - dead at the age of 39, the French singing superstar whom President Giscard d’Estaing labelled France’s answer to The Beatles.

François’ life story is told by director Florent-Emilio Siri (Hostage) in a powerful new biopic starring Jérémie Renier (In Bruges, Potiche) - and if you don’t actually remember François too well, it won’t take you long on Youtube to confirm that Renier really does offer a stunning likeness.

In truth, two and a half hours is probably 20 minutes or so too long, but there’s no denying this is a compelling portrait of a charismatic performer against a richly-evoked background of changing times.

Egyptian-born Claude and his family were plunged into poverty by the Suez crisis, and it was against stern-faced paternal disapproval that the young Cloclo embarked on his musical career, initially as a drummer before finding his feet as a vocalist - through sheer persistence.

Claude refused to take no or indeed failure for an answer. His breakthrough came as a French interpreter of British/American songs. No stony insistence here on pure-bred chanson. Claude was the commercial showman through and through. He wanted fame at any cost and got it - and it’s here that the film succeeds, with 60s styles giving way to 70s flamboyance with an impressive sense of the decades passing.

Claude’s skill was clearly in bending with the times - but Renier’s skill is in the complexities he brings out in this determined performer, flashy and given to pool parties but underneath clearly still smarting from his father’s snub.

The women in his life change around him, but François goes on, battling tax investigators and learning to ride the tide of disco.

In truth, he’s little known over here; if he’s remembered at all, it’s probably largely for the manner of his death. But Florent-Emilio Siri’ film - thanks to Renier’s excellent performance - is a picture of a man and his times well worth watching.

Phil Hewitt