Oscar hat-trick good news for disgruntled French film

26th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

France's triple Oscar win comes as a blessing for a film industry increasingly in fear of losing life-saving state support

   PARIS, Feb 26, 2008  - France's triple Oscar win, including a
Hollywood top nod for Best Actress, comes as a blessing for a film industry
increasingly in fear of losing life-saving state support.
   President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose fledgling government's alleged
cost-cutting is at the root of industry anxiety, himself said in a message
that France's three Oscars "illustrate the excellence of French cinema, which
has been unfailing over time."
   But barely 48 hours before the Hollywood awards took place, France's own
yearly prize-giving film ceremony, the Cesars, showcased a spot of cinematic
drama played out in French movie-houses, and live on French television.
   As the curtains went up on the Cesars -- where in a prequel to the Oscars
Marion Cotillard took home a Cesar Best Actress for her role as legendary
singer Edith Piaf -- around 200 of France's 1,000-odd independent art house
movie theatres closed their doors in protest against feared cuts in cultural
subsidies to local theatres and festivals.
   Simultaneously, the country's SRF film-makers association released a
statement denouncing a cut in subsidies to art house theatres and calling for
more government backing.
   "These are bad times for French film," said the SFR, "three-quarters of
ticket sales come from 17 percent of films made."
   "We want to build a sustainable environment for small fragile films and
find a way of improving the system," said one of the SFR's co-presidents,
Pierre Salvadori.
   France for years has argued that cultural products are different from
others and must be protected -- a policy known as cultural exception.
   Under this system, the state advances funding for films and sets quotas on
non-French footage broadcast on national TV. A percentage of all tickets sold
at the box office is recycled to fund new movies.
   The outcome has been a healthy film industry, the third biggest after the
United States and India. And France is the only European country where foreign
films represent less than half the market.
   So Sunday's triple Oscar was hailed as "historic" in France.
   Along with Cotillard's Best Actress, the Piaf movie "La Vie En Rose" won an
Oscar for best make-up while "The Mozart of the Pick-Pockets" took home a best
short movie award.
   Cotillard, a 32-year-old Parisian, was only the second woman to win the
best actress award for a non-English speaking performance after Italian legend
Sophia Loren, the 1962 best actress winner. She was also only the second
Frenchwoman in history to win the award following Simone Signoret's triumph in
   "The French language is no longer an insuperable obstacle to international
sales, specially in the US," said Veronique Cayla, who heads the country's
film centre, the CNC or Centre National de la Cinematographie.
   The producer of the Piaf movie, Alain Goldman, whose "La Vie en Rose" has
sold six million tickets worldwide, also stressed that French film had a
commercial future.
   The film's plethora of awards -- two Oscars, a Golden Globe, four British
BAFTAs and five French Cesars -- was proof "it's possible to reconcile auteur
films and commercial films" made in a country that often thinks the two
categories are distinct, he said.
   The head of the country's export film board Unifrance, Margaret Menegoz,
likewise said the three Oscars prove "French films are not elitist".
   "In the last several years we have invented other formulas, such as popular
auteur movies or auteur movies that are commercial," she said.


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