Veteran French politician Roselyne Bachelot brought extraordinary focus to the French film industry and the state support system that kept it afloat in a candid take on her difficult tenure as France’s culture minister during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Justified 682 Jours – Le Bal Des Hypocrites (682 Days – The Hypocrites’ Ball) the book sparked controversy in France after its release on Thursday over Bachelot’s outspoken criticism of the behavior of everyone from technocrats to city councilors and “high-paid stars” during the health crisis.
In a section on the film industry, Bachelot questioned the effectiveness of France’s state funding mechanisms for films and suggested that the driving principle of French cultural exceptionalism resulted in films of no interest to the general public.
“Indeed, the famous ‘cultural exception’ means that so many French films ‘cannot find their audience,’ to put it more politely or more explicitly, become flops,” she wrote. “This system also guarantees that leading actors are extraordinary receive compensation, three or four times that of actors in American independent cinema.”
“Government subsidies, revenue advances, tax breaks, breaks (the Freelance Entertainment Worker Support Program) have created a subsidized economy that cares little for audience taste and despises even popular, highly profitable films,” she continued.
She recalls that giving Dany Boon the César award for the box office success of his films was mocked in some circles.
“Giving Dany Boon and his 20 million+ entries a César… what a ridiculous idea!” she parodied.
Bachelot added: “You might tell me that some of these flops might be essential works that we will discover later with a sense of guilt for having missed their brilliance. It is always disturbing to see people on the ‘left’ despise ‘those people’ who have a bad taste in them.”
Her comments come at a difficult time for French cinema and are unlikely to be welcomed by many local film professionals.
Both commercial and French art house titles struggled to attract audiences to cinemas in 2022. For the first time in 30 years, no French production was among the ten top grossing films of the year in France.
When asked about her comments on RTL radio station in a promotional interview for the book, Bachelot said she hoped her reflections would be useful for the entire cultural sector.
“When you experience something special as I experienced as Minister of Culture at a time when almost the entire cultural industry comes to a standstill… then it is important to stock up. The cultural world and the Ministry of Culture are at a crossroads. Things are happening, drastic changes, which means that our previous cultural policy is coming to an end.”
However, she denied that her comments about the film’s financing implied that she felt France was pouring too much government money into the film.
“Oh no! It makes perfect sense to continue it. If France is the only European country with a film industry which in turn feeds an industry on the platforms, it is because of the policy we have had since 1946 , since the creation of the National Cinema Center (CNC),,” she said. We must keep it.”
Bachelot was appointed Minister of Culture in early July 2020, a few days after French cinemas reopened after a three-month closure due to the first wave of Covid-19.
The summer optimism was short-lived after new waves of the virus swept across Europe in the fall, prompting the French government to close theaters again on October 30, to reopen on May 19, 2021.
Other public cultural spaces were also closed for much of the same period.
The move sparked anger in the culture sector, particularly after shops and shopping centers were allowed to remain open in the run-up to Christmas, with the country’s culture ministry bearing the brunt of the fury.
At the French César Awards ceremony in March 2021, frustration spread across the film world over jokes and anti-government speeches, culminating in actress Corinne Masiero famously stripping down to reveal the slogan “No Culture, no Future”. smeared over her breasts and body.
Bachelot dissects the evening in her memoirs in an account that suggests she was not troubled by the gestures.
“The César ceremony is presented as ‘the great celebration of French cinema’,” she writes.
“This is torture for the culture ministers. In the absence of recognition, we are not asking the impossible, you should at least expect a short and polite greeting from the state representative during the ceremony,” she wrote.
The film world, she suggested, should publicly despise its patron to make it clear that art and culture are not for sale.
“It always leads to the same scenario,” Bachelot wrote.
“Beautifully dressed men and women, costing several thousand euros, with hair, shoes, jewelry and makeup by the best professionals in Paris, confess their well-intentioned and incriminating political involvement.
“They sprinkled their interventions with words dreamed up by an exhausted ‘joke’ who aimed at the minister, slumped in his chair like a boxer knocked out in the corner of the ring, and then ran to Fouquet. ” she continued, referring to the luxury restaurant on the Champs Elysées where the post-ceremony gala dinner is traditionally held.
Bachelot held the position of culture minister until May 2022, when she was replaced for a second term by Rima Abdul Malak as part of a cabinet reshuffle following Emmanuel Macron’s re-election as French president.
She also attended the 2022 Cesar ceremony, which was a quieter affair and passed without major incident.
Her comments also come at a sensitive time for Césars Academy, which is trying to restart after it collapsed in 2020 amid allegations of a lack of transparency, gender equality and diversity, and the eyes of nominees accused of crimes of sexual violence to be investigated, closed.
The organization has been revamped with the establishment of a gender-balanced co-chair, board and division leaders, and has just announced new rules banning movie characters being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct
In the background, the award ceremony is struggling for viewers like the French film. Last year’s edition attracted just 1.3 viewers for Canal Plus, a third of the viewership for the record-breaking 2012 edition when 3.9 viewers tuned in.
Author: Melanie Goodfellow
Elizabeth Cabrera is an author and journalist who writes for The Fashion Vibes. With a talent for staying up-to-date on the latest news and trends, Elizabeth is dedicated to delivering informative and engaging articles that keep readers informed on the latest developments.