From: Roger Beebe (email suppressed)
Date: Mon Jan 29 2007 - 02:02:43 PST
As someone living in Paris temporarily (until May), I can say that
cinéphiles in this city appear to be alive and well, despite the dire
diagnosis below. I went to a nearly sold-out screening of The
Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach in the Salle Henri Langois (the big
room) at the Cinémathèque Française on Saturday. There are
retrospectives of Billy Wilder, Aki Kaurismaki, Fassbinder, Sasha
Guitry, Marcel Carné, Antonioni, and possibly others currently on
offer as well as a number of one-offs (Forbidden Planet, Pat Garrett
and Billy the Kid, etc.). In the theater in my neighborhood, I'm
always shocked to see people lined up waiting to see an 11:30 a.m.
screening of Little Miss Sunshine (which opened here last week) or
whatever the new indie offering of the week is. Granted, Little Miss
Sunshine isn't Breathless and it certainly isn't French, but don't
cry bitter tears for Paris just yet. (Now, whether or not there are
the number of great French auteurs that there were back in the day--a
large part of the point of the article below, although you wouldn't
know it from the tagline--I'm less willing to make any kind of
On Jan 29, 2007, at 10:39 AM, Jack Sargeant wrote:
> this was in the Guardian today newspaper (UK) today...
> It's oui to rom-coms and non to art house as cinéphiles die out
> Fabled celluloid genre of Truffaut and Renoir could be facing the
> final edit
> Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
> Monday January 29, 2007
> The Guardian
> France has fallen dramatically out of love with the auteur and the
> whole idea of art house film which it invented.
> The nation that created the New Wave and elevated film-makers such
> as Godard and Truffaut to god-like status, can no longer bear to
> sit through anything that smacks of seriousness or pretension. So
> great has the public's aversion to art house cinema become that one
> distributor has warned that the very French species of the
> cinéphile - the discerning movie-buff who ignores marketing hype
> and seeks out intellectual masterpieces - is becoming extinct.
> France's 2006 box-office takings show that after years of decline
> as the public waited in vain for a new Jean Renoir or Louis Malle
> to appear, art house audiences are now in freefall. Le Monde has
> warned of a "catastrophe", independent producers and distributors
> are haemorrhaging funds and even highbrow cinema magazines are
> The public has seemingly lost trust in the nation's critics who are
> seen as cossetted in a celluloid ivory tower, too pally with film-
> makers and too quick to recommend the same old bleak, over-
> intellectualised musings while snubbing popular hits such as
> Amélie. Even French cinema's biggest names are facing meltdown.
> Bruno Dumont, the award-winning golden boy of French independent
> film whose recent offerings could be described as a mix of extreme
> violence, extreme sex and extreme boredom, is the latest victim of
> audience desertion.
> Flandres, his 2006 winner of the Cannes film festival's Grand Prix,
> about young French soldiers who leave their bleak rural lives to
> fight in an unnamed war, sold barely 80,000 tickets. The French
> public appeared to agree with The Hollywood Reporter, which deemed
> it "pretentious to the core" in its portrayal of "a clutch of dim-
> witted rustics". Benoît Jacquot's The Untouchable, about a woman
> tracing her father, won best actress prize at Venice. But it
> attracted a pitiful French audience of 35,000 and was named by
> Variety as a "strong candidate for empty French art film of the
> year". Indeed, most of the shortlist for the Louis Delluc prize,
> France's art house Oscars, were snubbed at the box office,
> including the winner, Lady Chatterley.
> The only two art house films in France to attract more than 500,000
> people last year were propped up by big stars: The Singer, in which
> Gérard Depardieu appeared as an ageing ballroom crooner opposite
> the nation's sweetheart Cecile de France, and the Page Turner,
> whose star Catherine Frot attracted the crowds.
> The decline in art house audiences is all the more galling as
> France's low-brow commercial films are enjoying success. Last year
> was a golden year for the French mainstream when 190 million people
> went to the cinema. But the films they saw were not broody epics
> but rom-coms and a new crop of slapstick.
> France - like India, Japan and South Korea - is one of the few
> countries where homegrown films stave off Hollywood domination,
> helped by strict quotas to stop "American cultural imperialism".
> But the popular French cinema to rival Hollywood is dumbing down.
> Ironically, Les Bronzés 3, a beach romp which topped the box office
> last year with 10 million seats, was directed by Patrick Leconte,
> once one of French art house's great hopes. Another 5.5 million
> French saw Camping, a celebration of the French working-class
> devotion to putting up tents. Other hits were animation, such as
> Arthur and the Invisibles.
> "Cinéphilie no longer exists in France," the film distributor
> Thomas Ordonneau said. Gilles Jacob, the head of Cannes film
> festival, has warned that French audiences were no longer "curious"
> about what they watched.
> Even foreign audiences are becoming less forgiving of French films,
> which can no longer coast on the memory of its 50s, 60s and 70s
> heyday. France has only once won the top prize at Cannes, Berlin or
> Venice in the past decade. Provisional figures show that last year,
> 55.8 million people worldwide saw French films, down a fifth from
> Increasingly the most popular art house directors are foreigners
> working in France, such as the Austrian Michael Haneke whose film
> Hidden was a big hit.
> The veteran French film critic, Michel Ciment, editor of Positif,
> one of France's oldest cinema magazines, told the Guardian that TV
> was partly to blame for turning turning out a constant stream of
> marketed but "uninteresting" comedies for bland family consumption.
> "Part of the problem is a lack of credibility of film critics in
> France," he said. "In the 50s and 60s they would have frontpage
> pieces and a huge influence. If they said an obscure film was a
> masterpiece, 200,000 people would go to see it at one cinema and it
> would stay on for a year. But critics in France have now lost their
> power to influence, the public feel they too cosily promote
> friends, are snobbish and only present esoteric films. The audience
> feels insulted.
> "The French can boast about countering the US, but I'm not very
> proud of the quality of films they are trying to counter Hollywood
> with. American films like Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers or
> Scorsese's The Departed are much better than the French films
> audiences here are going to see."
> For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.
For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.