French politicians polish cultural credentials.
April 8, 2002 9:50 PM   Subscribe

French politicians polish cultural credentials. France's presidential hopefuls have begun pledging to defend the country's cherished culture, hoping to drum up support from artists worried that American films and music will steamroll finer French productions. This rhetoric makes it sound like American films are picking up guns to massacre poor defenseless French culture. Maybe American films are so successful because they give people something that the "finer French productions" don't, and if so, then is that such a horrible thing? After all, we are just giving the people what they want, right? And if that takes money away from more artsy productions, then whose fault is that anyway?
posted by epimorph (15 comments total)
Well, in that sense, yes, epimorph, entertainment. Perhaps, by their statements, the French need to defend themselves from the French.
That aside, for the most part I applaud their efforts in maintaining a cultural identity (per this article). But I am biased, of course (being an American). It is precisely this culture (and every other) that many of us need an infusion of in order to sustain the Amercian culture in which we call home.
posted by G_Ask at 10:20 PM on April 8, 2002

Sometimes things that aren't economically viable actually do have value.
posted by panopticon at 10:26 PM on April 8, 2002

...and if so, then is that such a horrible thing?
maybe not horrible, but the homogenization of culture certainly isn't a good thing.
posted by juv3nal at 10:30 PM on April 8, 2002

I certainly agree that variety in culture is desirable, and French culture in particular has great things to offer. But, is it ok to put taxes on American films or to otherwise punish them for the mere crime of being popular?
posted by epimorph at 10:47 PM on April 8, 2002

As I understand it, all films are taxed equally. Songs/radio air-play from outside France (after a limit?) are taxed. I like your point, epimorph, but "why not?" comes to mind. Again, in simplisitc terms according to the article, it seems an incentive to promote "home-grown" commodities.
What struck me is the "meaningless and uniform background noise that is masquerading as culture"(Chrirac) comment. Like it or not, Americana is a valid culture.
posted by G_Ask at 11:06 PM on April 8, 2002

epimorph: the tax applies to all cinema tickets and video sales, regardless of origin, hypothecated to a fund for cinematography. There's an identical one in the Czech Republic, but no-one moans about Czech protectionism. There's one in India. And the Netherlands. Poland and Ireland want to do the same. In the US, it's the multiplexes that get tax breaks, which sends nothing back to film-makers.

Anyway: did you catch Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain in the cinema? If so, did you think that it was the sort of thing that wouldn't have been made in an American studio? Is the film version of La femme Nikita better than both the TV series and The Assassin? That'll be because the tradition of state investment in the film industry gives directors the chance to take risks, rather than play to the crowds. The same is slowly happening here with the backing of BBC and Film Four, and when it pays off, you get a film like Trainspotting that not only brings in the cash, but also inspires another generation.
posted by riviera at 11:08 PM on April 8, 2002

Trainspotting inspired another generation? To do what, shoot heroin and be miserable losers?
posted by dagny at 1:22 AM on April 9, 2002

um, to make interesting films, perhaps?
posted by juv3nal at 1:58 AM on April 9, 2002

It is important that you have a native culture that connects with your own country and its people. It's sad that the film industry has been so completely dominated by Hollywood. India's probably the only country (outside America) that has a film industry that really connects. Luckily in Britain TV, music and literature is still dominated by native product. What if you haven't even got that? I don't think it's a quality issue. Culture is simply a country or people talking to itself, and if it's all imported then it's not doing that.
posted by Summer at 3:36 AM on April 9, 2002

Is McDonald's better than Le Tour d'Argent? How come they have more restaurants then? The success of the American film industry is the success of a giant: brute force, little to no merit.
posted by magullo at 6:46 AM on April 9, 2002

So in France there are people who don't know what's good for them, and they have to be told by an elite group what to watch.

How come people on the left are always trying to force people to change their behavior?
posted by mikegre at 7:14 AM on April 9, 2002

How come the people on the right believe there's no merit in minority opinions?

The fact is, French cinema is under pressure from all sides: at the least, it risks being diluted by the unstoppable waves of American money that market American films. Marketing works. Marketing sells movies. If you don't have the marketing money, your movie fails. French film tends not to be that heavily capitalized, and is made by much smaller companies that can't afford to plaster the world with advertisements and marketing promotions. We are, as has already been mentioned in this forum, but which clearly needs to be repeated, not talking about superior American films crowding out inferior French films. That's fair, and most French recognize the difference. We are talking—and this, as far as I am concerned, is not a debatable opinion—about inferior American movies with huge marketing muscle beating up on French films, going to so far as to make it difficult for some French films, even in Paris, a great movie town, to get screenings. Hell, crappy American films with huge marketing muscle crowd out superior American films with less marketing muscle. It's a horrible Catch-22 which can only be resolved (in France) with legislation, I'm afraid. You cannot let the market decide what is right: there must be room, even if it's forced or artificially created room, for the smaller less bank-rolled movies to appear. That's it. The market is not the answer when it comes to matters of taste. Taste is improved by variety, and variety is anathema to dollar-voting democracy and its offshoots. There is no final answer to taste: it is a constantly changing spectrum and new movements *do not ever* come out of the mass market, but out of non-mainstream actions. In France, these actions can only be taken with support of the government. A culture, including American, has a responsibility to defends itself. A culture can be planned, organized, promoted, and there's no shame in that. The French are doing a good thing by protecting French cinema, and will benefit from it, and Hollywood will suffer *not at all* from any move they make.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:28 AM on April 9, 2002

Trainspotting inspired another generation? To do what, shoot heroin and be miserable losers?

Well, given the options of heroin and Objectivism, I'd choose the needle and spoon, for the less insidious toxin. But juv3nal got it right.
posted by riviera at 11:30 AM on April 9, 2002

Don't forget the positive French take on American culture. I am probably the only American who agrees with the French that Jerry Lewis is a genius.
posted by Rebis at 4:09 PM on April 9, 2002

Jerry Lewis : France :: Benny Hill : USA
posted by riviera at 5:42 PM on April 9, 2002

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