Monday, June 3, 2013

Editorial: The Margins at the Center (Cahiers du Cinéma, May 2013)

The French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma in the issues around the month of May become more intensified: last year there was the editorial Programmer and this year there is the polemic La marge au centre (which is translated below). In this new editorial, the current chief-editor since 2009, Stéphane Delorme argues for a new youthfulness in French cinema and interrogates the financing and programming institutions so that they will better understand and be more receptive to the plight of these independent filmmakers: what there is to gain is an emergence of more youthful, lively and creative forms.

The May 2013 issue of Cahiers includes an Événement on Cannes 2013, which includes the articles l'âge du festival on the average age of the programmed (older) filmmakers, and articles on Arnaud des Pallières' Michael Kohlhaas, Mathamat-Saleh Haroun's Grigris, Ari Folman's The Congress, and Léa Seydoux (La vie d'Adèle, Grand Central). There is also a Billets Cannes which includes the articles Où sont les femmes? (suite), Paolo Sorrentino: un invité envahissant, James Gray: l'obstiné, D'une Asie à l'autre, and Premiers Films Français sans convention.

There is an Événement on the Convention collective, which is a government and industry sanction to impose stricter regulation on the filmmaking industry that would greatly disrupt smaller independent productions. The article that opens the dossier, Jean-Philippe Tessé's Convention collective: le cinéma français au pied du mud, brings up many of its key points.

The rest of the magazine is full of good articles. The Cahier critique section has only three films (Shokuzai, La Fille du 14 juillet, L'Écume des jours) and the rest are in the Notes sur d'autres films section (where the stand-out is The Lebanese Rocket Society). The Le Journal is dense with articles on, for example, the actor Jean-Luc Vincent (Camille Claudel 1915), Albert Serra, Jess Franco, and Vincente Minnelli. And finally there is a good dossier on South by Southwest by Nicholas Elliot and Clémentine Gallot with interviews with the key Austin filmmakers Richard Linklater, Jeff Nichols, David Gordon Green, Andrew Bujalski, and Chris Eska. - D.D.

This year's Cannes Film Festival is under the menacing shadow of the extension of the collective agreement which aims against those films that have the most fragile budgets. Since we are particularly attentive to the young French filmmakers (see the April issue titled: "Jeunes cinéastes français on n'est pas mort!"), we had to continue the investigation, this time not on the side of creation but on the funding side. This deconstruction will continue in the next months in the pages of the magazine to promote the emergence of free and daring filmmakers. It is not enough to criticize the films that arrive, the mission of the Cahiers is to formulate what is missing, propose solutions, and see where it gets stuck. The meeting with the Minister of Labour Michel Sapin and Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti as well as the deciders of France 2 Cinéma is to discuss this concern. What is the government and the public service doing to promote boldness and creativity? What can the government do and what is the goal of the public service? Power and service. The primary objective is not to denounce, but to seek and to generate new ideas through confrontation.

There are ideas that weigh on the subject like that of "diversity." Their draw which we are reassured is that they are cheap to make: the "small" films also has a role to play, a "small" part, as it should. The cinema of auteur is still in this "diversity clause," in the exception, in the annex, in the margin, in the insulting category of "difficult" films. It is as if a film made by a filmmaker who has something to say could not reach the greatest numbers. What makes an auteur film difficult? How can a movie be generous, enthusiastic, sensitive, that talks about our lives, even if they are first films or small films: why couldn't they work for everyone? Why are these films are not on prime-time television and why aren't they in the competition at Cannes?

Because ultimately the same thing is at stake: that of jobs. Each one in his place. A small pool for the young and broke, and a large pool for the experienced and well-off. There is a second class and a premium class. But how can one not see in this a lack of imagination? It is a movie like J’ai tué ma mère by Xavier Dolan that should be in the premium class for the Palme d'Or (why not?) and on TV with a 8:30PM Sunday night slot so that everyone will be speaking about it the next day. If people are falling asleep in front of their TV it is because we do not give them anything to watch. The public wants films that affect them, that divides them, and that exist. Cinema is made to make people speak. We are told that we need a "family" movie to play between 20 h 30, but the films that will be discussed within the families are precisely J’ai tué ma mère and My Little Princess, because, there, there are things to say. But the same thing happens at Cannes. La Bataille de Solférino by Justine Triet is found in the smallest section, ACID. It was predictable: a first film with a small budget. Yet the "potential audience" is real, with its father and mother who tear each other apart as they are trying to look out for their children. This is Kramer vs. Kramer on Solferino street. But as they say, since this good film pushes the limits, then we will have to defend it here.

This issue ends on the other side of the world, with some American filmmakers who live and work in Austin, where a community gradually emerged, in opposition to the forms of both Hollywood and the independent cinema. In between the lines, regarding this trip to Texas, we can read another way to make films and work together, which emphasizes dynamism, support and enthusiasm. The American system is certainly no better, and it's getting worse, but we wanted to see what had prompted many filmmakers to leave Los Angeles and New York to provide the means to find their freedom and to ensure that the margins becomes the center.

Stéphane Delorme


Unknown said...

I think this is an interesting editorial for you to translate. The ideas there should certainly be supported by any young film makers among your readers.


nitesh said...

Thanks for the translation!