French culture in crisis ?
April 17, 2002 2:31 AM   Subscribe

French culture in crisis ? After the Vivendi Universal french CEO Jean-Marie Messier fired Canal+ chairman Pierre Lescure yesterday, many questions arise in France. Will Vivendi, through Canal+, continue to help French cinema the way Canal+ did in the past ? Is this the last straw in a long series of acts and declarations from Vivendi's CEO against "Franco-French cultural exception" ? Has The Man finally won in France ? What's to happen in all the other countries were Vivendi (or any of the BigCo) basically owns the culture through local companies ?
posted by XiBe (10 comments total)

 
If France really wants to save its movie industry, it needs to cough up the cash: defend French culture by redirecting a good chunk of the $25 or $30 billion French military budget to the popular arts. Invaders aren't exactly physically threatening France -- asylum seekers pass right through to get to the UK, and what army is preparing to invade France? -- but the language is certainly losing its relative importance in the world, and guns won't save it.

France at least needs to make learning and speaking French interesting, cheap, and worthwhile to the rest of the world. In part, it needs to send free texts and CDs and movies to as many schools and businesses as it can afford to supply, offer free immersion courses in France for culturally influential people, create massive free web sites for learning the language, and make more of its own Hollywood-style crap to appeal to the billions-served crowd.

Of course, a very strong national economy would make more foreign businesspeople want to learn French, but French unions and French strikes and...
posted by pracowity at 5:06 AM on April 17, 2002


i think it's pretty hilarious that Messier took over the airwaves to protest his firing.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 5:46 AM on April 17, 2002


sacre bleu! i meant Lescure, not Messier.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 5:48 AM on April 17, 2002


Zoopraxiscope : actually, it's the other way around. Lescure (Canal+ chairman) took over the Canal+ airwaves, together with the whole staff.
Messier (Vivendi Universal CEO) appeared later during the France 2 TV evening news to explain his point of view.

What tickles me is that Canal+ is basically the savior of French cinema, and because it's now part of the Vivendi galaxy, Messier literally holds French movies by the balls.
posted by XiBe at 6:03 AM on April 17, 2002


France at least needs to make learning and speaking French interesting, cheap, and worthwhile to the rest of the world. In part, it needs to send free texts and CDs and movies to as many schools and businesses as it can afford to supply, offer free immersion courses in France for culturally influential people, create massive free web sites for learning the language, and make more of its own Hollywood-style crap to appeal to the billions-served crowd.

Much of this is already being done.

The French government does more to promote the French language around the world than it does to promote any other part of French culture. The annual Francophonie conference stems out of finally embracing those countries that speak some form of French, but which had long been neglected because it wasn't *pure* French. Contrast this with the very idea of an Anglophone conference. Sure, we tend to pal around with our Anglophone brothers and sisters but we don't organize a dozen kinds of meetings solely around our common language.

While the Alliance Française does not give away free French classes, they are cheap, a third or less of what a comparable, competent class would cost from elsewhere.

The fact that films like Ghost Dog have people speaking French in them is due entirely to the sponsorship of Canal +. This makes French familiar and easy by couching it in largely English dialog, and for American audiences, avoids the stigma of subtitles.

In Africa, the French are in the umpteenth year of a cultural war against Anglophone culture which involves sponsoring French radio and French schools in those parts of Africa which could just as easily speak English as a lingua franca. Part of this effort is through reading. A lot of it involves enchancing European—African connections.

There are a huge number of French classes on the Internet.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:11 AM on April 17, 2002


> The French government does more to promote the
> French language around the world than it does to
> promote any other part of French culture.

That's the only part that matters in this case; get people reading and speaking French, and then you can get them helping you to preserve French books, movies, music, etc.

> There are a huge number of French classes on
> the Internet.

Brilliant. The page is in French. Very useful for people who need to learn French.

In any case, I don't know what else is available, but the few I just looked at from that list look relatively shoddy. I'm looking for a site that is built and paid for by the French government but designed by real web people, costs nothing to visitors, and has hours and hours and hours of free downloadable media to accompany lots and lots of free texts. Is there something like that?

Even if it cost, say, a hundred million dollars to produce, or a billion dollars, it would still be just a smallish chunk of one year's military budget and would be much more effective in promoting French interests around the world than a few stupid fighter jets are.

Where's that billion-dollar web site for teaching foreigners French?
posted by pracowity at 7:50 AM on April 17, 2002


The French government also funds Radio France International - it's comparable to the BBC, in 19 languages, and they stream it all. They also pay to have it broadcast over the radio in NYC for two-three hours a day.

The gov't also fund France 2 to put the entirety of their three times a day news programs online, available for streaming or download (broadband need only apply though). They also pay to have the evening news broadcast on WNYE in NYC.

The reason why the Alliance Francaise is so cheap is that it's subsidized by the French (and Canadian) gov't, and they also show movies once a week for free if you're a member (which cost 25 bucks). The French gov't also funds film series, lectures, and museum shows.

The NYTimes also wrote about something related this week, about how foreign countries are opening and funding cultural centers in New York. Read it here.

As for the billion dollar french-language learning website, I think that would be a great idea.
posted by panopticon at 10:55 AM on April 17, 2002


The French are in a decline because they still embrace socialism. The country is run by an elite (nomenklatura) that picks and chooses what "is best" for the masses. Sorry, but this doesn't work.

Eventually, they will have to change, but things are going to have to get a whole lot worse for them before they get better. They appear to be about 30 or 40 years behind the U.S.
posted by mikegre at 11:06 AM on April 17, 2002


The United States are in a decline because they still embrace capitalism. The country is run by an elite (nomenklatura) that picks and chooses what "is best" for the masses. Sorry, but this doesn't work.

Eventually, they will have to change, but things are going to have to get a whole lot worse for them before they get better. They appear to be about 30 or 40 years behind the French.
posted by panopticon at 11:37 AM on April 17, 2002


Well, I could have quoted Scotty, from The Simpsons. "Them French. They're just a bunch of cheese eatin' surrender monkeys".
posted by mikegre at 2:57 PM on April 17, 2002


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