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Does Jeunet Count as French Cinema?

Gérard Jugnot in Les choristes, 2004French cinema may be on the mend, according to a report I saw on the evening news from France 2 Tuesday night (see Jacky Bornet, Fréquentation record en 2004, January 4). That is, 196 million people in France bought movie tickets in 2004, the highest amount since 1983—after which there was a devastating 10-year decline—and a 12% increase over last year. Not only that, but more of them went to see French movies than last year, too. In fact, the champion du box-office français 2004 was a French film, Christophe Barratier's Les choristes (The Choristers, about the conductor of a children's chorus), starring Gérard Jugnot, which at 8.6 million tickets sold placed ahead of Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Spider-Man 2. The data come from a press announcement (.PDF file, January 4) from the Fédération Nationale des Cinémas Français (FNCF).

Other successful French films that probably contributed to the increase in numbers were Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Un long dimanche de fiançailles (6th place)—see my post (American Cultural Imperialism, September 12, 2003) on the controversy over whether the film is actually French—Jean-Jacques Annaud's Les Deux Freres (9th place), François Desagnat and Thomas Sorriaux's Les 11 Commandements (10th place), and Valérie Guignabodet's Mariages! (20th place). Even so, only 8 of the top 20 selling films were French. What country was responsible for the other 12? Raise your guilty imperialist hands, my fellow Americans!

Jeunet's film (A Very Long Engagement) is showing right now here in Washington, at the E Street Cinema and at the AFI Silver Theatre (where, if I can find my passport for the trip out to the suburbs, there is also the retrospective Pedro Almodóvar: Director on the Verge, starting tomorrow and running through February 20). However, for any of the other films mentioned here, I will be lucky to see them except as rentals during a future trip to France.

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