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American Cultural Imperialism

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, image belongs to his Web siteYes, we are doing it again, trying to destroy a foreign culture and replace it with our own. Agence France-Presse reported today (carried by TV5 as Warner/Jeunet, des fiançailles franco-américaines qui sèment la discorde, September 12) on the standoff between French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the Centre National de la Cinématographie. Jeunet began shooting his new film Un long dimanche de fiançailles [A Long Sunday of Betrothal], based on the novel by Sébastien Japrisot (winner of the Prix Interallia in 1991; translated into English as A Very Long Engagement) and featuring Audrey Tautou (from Jeunet's very successful Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain; see also Jeunet's dossier spécial on this film), last month. (Jody Foster is also rumored to have a small part, according to This has been confirmed on Jeunet's Web site.) 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." (What the AFP article doesn't mention is that Warner owns the film rights to Japrisot's book; Jeunet cannot make the film without Warner.)

Is this sort of reaction hyperbolic? That may be, but AFP also cites figures that American cinema makes up only 60% of the French market right now, as opposed to the rest of Europe, where the average is 80%. Charges of cultural imperialism may seem exaggerated, but try to imagine this happening to us in the United States: the majority of films available to you are in a foreign language and you have to watch them with subtitles or dubbing. We wouldn't be happy either.

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