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3.6.05

It's Official: Not French

One of the highest-grossing films in France last year, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Un long dimanche de fiançailles has not succeeded in an appeal to have its status as a French film reconsidered legally. As I wrote back in 2003, the problem began with officials at the Centre National de la Cinématographie:

So far, the CNC refuses to authorize the film, an official stamp of approval without which no French film can receive any government funding or be supported by any of the national television networks. The reason is Jeunet's alliance with the enemy, the American film industry, in the shape of media juggernaut AOL Time Warner: "It is clear that Warner is investing lots of money in the movie," a CNC official is quoted as saying, through 2003 Productions, a subsidiary of Warner France. Jeunet has said that if the CNC refuses to change its mind, his film may be delayed or even canceled. It is unlikely that that will happen, however, since the CNC sees 2003 Productions as a "possible Trojan Horse of American cinema." French law stipulates that no company dominated by non-European financial interests can receive any government support, and Warner's putative control over 2003 Productions (Warner has invested 46 million euros, or $53 million, in the film) is tantamount to "attempted breaking and entering."
The situation was complicated further because the movie is based on a novel by Sébastien Japrisot (winner of the Prix Interallia in 1991; translated into English as A Very Long Engagement). Since Warner owns the film rights to Japrisot's book, Jeunet could not have made the film without Warner. An article ("Un long dimanche de fiançailles" reste privé du financement du CNC, June 2) by Nicole Vulser for Le Monde says that decision is now final (my translation):
The tribunal had decided in the first place that this film should no longer be considered European and could not benefit from the French system of aid while at the same time being produced by a company controlled by an American interest. [...] On appeal, that judgment has been upheld. In a related judgment, the court agreed to hear a full appeal, on July 1, of the request for cancelling the approval of the support given to Josyane Balasko's film L'Ex-Femme de ma vie, also produced by 2003 Productions.
I finally saw this film, a while back now, and enjoyed it, although not excessively. What I reported as a rumor back in 2003, that Jodie Foster had a small role in the movie, turned out to be true. She speaks French well and with a good accent. (This makes sense, since she went to a private school in Los Angeles that was, I believe, a French immersion program. Let's hear it for francophilia!) Audrey Tautou (she who appeared on the cover of TIME with the words, "Why France Is Different") is absolutely adorable. I have read that Jeunet created the role with a different actress in mind, and that comes across somewhat in the film. Tautou is fun to watch, but it did seem like the role just did not quite fit her. (I like Amelia Gentleman's review of the movie, Amélie goes to war, because the title nails it.)

Knowing how much I love Paris, you will not be surprised to learn that I loved Jeunet's loving creation of WWI-era Paris, especially the busy market stands of the now-disappeared Les Halles, where we first see Jodie Foster's character. If I had to sum up the movie, I would say that it's something like a cross between Catch-22 and Bertrand Tavernier's Capitaine Conan. If you can't imagine that World War I could have a whimsical side, Jeunet does his best to find it.

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