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Alain Corneau • Director

"Diversity or Big Brother"


- The French director and president of the 13th edition of the Beaune Film Meetings (October 23-26, 2003), gives an overview of the event to Cineuropa and talks about the future for film in France

Alain Corneau • Director

With a sparkle in his eyes and an ever-present smile on his lips, the filmmaker Alain Corneau has become the spokesman for the French Authors-Directors-Producers, on the occasion of the 13th edition of the Beaune Film Meetings organised by ARP from October 23 to 26. The president of the event and director of films like Fear and Trembling [+see also:
film profile
, Nocturne indien or All the Mornings of the World, talks about the important challenges in today’s marketplace and the future that French cinema has to face.

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How is French cinema doing this year?
"It’s still in crisis, but I think it’s in a transitional phase between crisis and improvement, just like our economy. But, in spite of what I have just said, even so, the overall picture is positive. We have to look at where we are and what we have to do. Because when we talk about crisis, we’re talking about actions and not stoppages. There are financial balances that have been transformed: new habits about the consummation of films, the battle about commercialisation,, the enlarged Europe, digital which is about to fall on us, the need to take the DVD sector in hand, the more complex systems for funding films, even though the Canal+ mechanism is still operating. All of these things seem to pose a danger. There’s a type of ferment, and this is a good thing. ARP and the Beaune Meetings were created for that very reason".

In your opening speech, you talked about the digital future of Terminator and Big Brother. Is there really a threat of destruction?
"In spite of it all I’m optimistic. In short, digital is an amazing technological improvement that can bring benefits we can’t even imagine today. It’s a revolutionary technology in every way. But we stand still and don’t react, if we don’t start to prepare ourselves, by setting up new cinemas, if we don’t start making films, if we don’t prepare the rules for digital, once again the Americans will set the regulations before we do, making digital the umpteenth instrument of standardisation. 500-1,000 prints cost money, even for a major, while with digital all you have to do is push a button and you can prepare 100,000 copies in the same day. And this is the very thing we have to avoid. Digital, with its speed and practicability, should be a positive force in diversification. There are positive signals, given that the only cinemas equipped with digital in France are independents. But the others who are sitting and waiting, react too late. You have to remember that the first sound digital system was French, but it didn’t go anywhere and we’ve left the Americans to buy it up".

Last year, Claude Lelouche called for more time to be given for news about films to spread by word of mouth, What has happened over this last year, given the current imposition of a two-speed system for productions?
"What can you do? Cinemas are at the mercy of the market, it all goes very quickly; there’s a real inflation of prints and releases, which ends up causing real problems: films that compete with each other and that don’t have to time to settle. We have to continue to fight this, but the real bet is in production, there shouldn’t be too wide a gap between big commercial productions and the other more difficult films, which have increasingly smaller resources. Today, the average French production, which was the jewel in the crown of a national cinematography aimed at a more or less adult audience, is in danger".

What do you think about the controversy about the agreement for the new film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, funded by Warner?
"L'ARP is against those who set up judicially highly strange financing of productions. On the other hand, we are in favour of Jean-Pierre Jeunet making a film in French. Now we have to establish legislation which can provide some additional funding for so called ‘foreign’ companies. But there has to be a precise regulation framework".

What is you next project? Is it another journey into another culture?
"No, think it will be a holy French film (he laughs) but very light-hearted. Like the last one (Fear and Trembling) I’ll try to make a film that doesn’t need a lot of money. I can’t deny the fact that it’s also a way of being happy while you’re filming. And releasing films like this is much less stressful. When you have to achieve success and you don’t always manage it, it’s something difficult to face. Even if no one forces you to make films!".

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