French Movies - No Popcorn

by Ric Erickson

Number 1.16 - Metropole Paris, Monday, 10. June 1996:- There are about 400 feature movies produced in France each year and there are around 4,400 cinemas in which to see them. This pretty well makes France the movie capital of Europe - I have no figures for Russia - as there are only about 2,700 cinemas in Germany and a measly 1,800 in Great Britain.

citebergere.jpg (15k) In addition to French-produced films, the cinemas have a heavy schedule of new American films, and they also show movies made elsewhere in Europe as well as occasional movies from further abroad. Altogether, the variety of new films to see is immense, especially if all the film festivals are added; there are several others besides the big wing-ding at Cannes each year. In addition to new titles, there are also the retrospective programs put on by certain cinemas, not to mention the regular program of the Cinémathèque - the 'movie museum' - itself.

If you are a movie fan, France is your country, and Paris is your heaven. As in heaven, language is not much of a problem - first-run American, or English-language movies are shown in 'V.O.' - version originale - which means, original audio with subtitles in French. Many movie fans are true hard-cases, so many imported films run in V.O. for visitors and purists alike.

What is rare though, are French-language films with subtitles in foreign languages. Occasional movies made in Quebec or Africa may have original soundtracks in French - with subtitles in French, for those who have difficulty with colonial accents; but these are not common.

There is a certain amount of European co-production and films these are increasing in number as TV money flows into film production. For an Italian-German-Spanish co-production, it can be difficult to figure out in advance what the V.O. language might be when the film opens on the Champs-Elysées. In France, the bottom line is that the sub-titles will be in French.

At the same time as blockbuster foreign films in V.O. open on the Champs, the domestic version, dubbed into French, also opens. If it is on the Champs, the V.O. and V.F. Versions could be playing on opposite sides of the avenue. Dubbing is done by a small band of professionals and I think they may have a lot of work - because you may hear one voice for six different American actors, but you will only notice this after a few years.

In 20 years, I confess to being in few cinemas, but I have seen a lot of French movies on TV. Some people don't like the little screen and I admit that it leaves too much chance for distraction and too many possibilities for less than total immersion - I like movies, but I don't like crowded places.

My sum criticism of French movies is easy to make because I have none. The French make a lot of movies because they like to tell stories in this format. There is a huge pool of professional and talented directors, writers, actors, musicians and technicians. Of course there are 'average' movies too: there are 'B' movies and there are even 'D' movies - but perhaps fewer than one would think because financing is not easy to come by.

In short, inside of a few years, it is possible to see a lot of really good movies in France. So, the question is, why are they not shown around the world to huge audiences? I don't know the answer to this question.

Nevertheless, starting from this issue of Metropole, we are going to run movie reviews.

Our reviewer, Mr. Fox, unlike me prefers his movies on the big screen and he goes often and has been doing so for a fair amount of time. He is not sure how many reviews he will do for us, partly because we've agreed that there no point in writing about the 'average' French film when there are so many top-notch ones - that may never see foreign distribution.

This may seem futile, but look at it this way: after seeing the review you may want to see the film, just as, after reading a piece in Metropole, you want to see the real thing. If you come to Paris, you can see both - although the movie will most likely be in V.F., just like France.

More Culture: CD-ROMs

While it may be difficult to obtain French movies abroad in any version, getting French-produced CD-ROM titles might not be so difficult. The bigger producers have a lot of joint-ventures and some of their titles will show up in your country in a localized version. However, we think there may be a lot of people around the world who want their French desires to be 'in French' - in V.O. - so also beginning in this issue of Metropole, we begin reviews of French-production CD-ROM titles.

I have been talking to various producers, big and small, and none of them are rushing to set up mail-order departments (or even Email-order departments). I will keep contact addresses handy for the titles reviewed in Metropole in case any interest is awakened. We are not 'set up' for this either, but we will do what we can for our readers.

Coming Events: A Selection:

19th Festival - Foire Saint-Germain
Expos, concerts, antiques, visits, theatre, special children's day, poetry 'market,' etc.
Runs until 27. July - at various locations: City Hall of the 6th arrondissement, place Saint-Suplice and at the auditorium of the Marché St. Germain. Paris 6. Tel.: 40 46 75 12.

19th Festival - Foire Saint-Germain
Handel and Vivaldi
13. June, 20:30, at Saint-Germain church Place
Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris 6. Tel.: 40 46 75 12.

Antiques Fair
11:00 to 20:30, until 17. June.
Place Saint-Suplice, Paris 6. Tel.: 40 46 75 12.

De Pierre et de Coeur
350 years of the history of the Saint-Suplice church (1646 - 1996) From 11:00 to 18:00, 4. June to 27. July. City Hall of the 6th arrondissement 76, rue Bonaparte, Paris 6. Tel.: 40 46 75 12.

On the Occasion of the Ariane 5 Launch:

Within the framework of the permanent exposition 'Space' - visits guided by scientific experts, with the theme of the Ariane program. Until 23. June, at 10:00 to 18:00, to 19:00 on Sundays, closed Mondays. Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie
30, avenue Corentin-Cariou, Paris 19. Tel.: 36 68 29 30.

Operas in June:
La Clemence de Titus, Norma, Lucia di Lammermoor, Carmen, Jenufa and Salome.

The usual couple of URLs:

French Musicians on the Net:

French Universities on the Net:
So far 13 sites are in operation on the Web, with about 500 more to come. Examples of typical URLs are or The site at Strasbourg is sort of a pilot for other sites, so it might be an idea to start with it.

French Photo-Magazine-Journalism on the Net:

Euro-Football on the Net:
The UFEA '96 Cup: Official:
France 2 TV:

German Magazines on the Net:
Der Stern


Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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