Magazine article Variety

In Gaul We Trust

Magazine article Variety

In Gaul We Trust

Article excerpt

Jusr before I relocated to France two years ago, Jay Penske, chairman & CEO of Variety parent company PMC, asked me why Paris, as opposed to London, when picking a base from which to lead the paper's international team of film critics.

It's a fair question. Great Britain has close ties to Hollywood, producing everything from "The King's Speech" to "Kingsman" (to say nothing of the Harry Potter and James Bond franchises). Plus, they speak English in London.

Still, for me, the choice was obvious: France is where cinema was invented, dating back 120 years to the Lumière brothers. In Paris, there are more cinema screens per capita than in any other major city. It is also the center of international co-production. And, of course, the world's most important film festival takes place a short train ride away, in Cannes.

At the time, we couldn't have known what a volatile place Paris would become, sustaining attacks on both the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Bataclan theater in 2015. When I arrived a year earlier, 1 was delighted to discover that Parisians, frequent moviegoers that they are, can buy an "unlimited" moviegoing pass from one of several major chains, allowing me to max out on all that French theaters had to offer. After the Nov. 13 attacks, however, I stayed away from cinemas for nearly an entire month - from all public entertainment venues, in fact, since they were precisely what the terrorists had targeted.

But the cultural appetite here is enormous, and the country refuses to have its consumption habits dictated by jihadists. In fact, one of the things I admire most about French cinema is how "un-French" it is - that is, how local producers are dedicated to seeking out and encouraging foreign voices, the way Arizona Films' Guillaume de Seille ("Corn Island") and Coproduction Office's Philippe Bober ("Force Majeure") do on a regular basis.

Here in France, films such as Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" and Iran's delightful "The Lunchbox" (both French co-productions) open on multiple screens, not just in Paris, but around the country. I couldn't have been more thrilled when a committee made up of the industry's most influential players selected Deniz Gamze Erguven's Turkish-set debut "Mustang" to represent France at the Oscars.

More than half a century after the French New Wave, many Americans hold that idea of Gallic cinema as rowdy, realistic and ultra-romantic - a reputation that serves French film imports well on the arthouse circuit, but describes a mere fraction of the 250-plus features the country produces each year. …

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