The end of the French cultural exception?

The French cultural exception may be coming to an end, but not because of American pressure. The EU, that darling of the French, has decided that film subsidies should not be tied so closely to domestic production. After all, that would be discriminatory. Under the new proposal, a government could demand only that fifty percent of the subsidized film, in revenue terms, is made at home. Currently the figure stands at eighty percent. So they could shoot French films in Greece and still get the subsidies. More generally, the proposed change would force French filmmakers into more co-production agreements with other European nations. Here is the full story from the Financial Times.

Many of the French fear that we would get a bland cinematic “Euro-pudding” as a result. Note, however, that the renowned film Amelie was a French-German co-production, yet it retained a distinctive French flavor. The more likely “problem” is that the domestic political coalition behind French subsidies will be disturbed and may not survive in the long run.

The decision is not yet final, but Brussels can strike down the subsidies without approval from the French government and is expected to do so. Several weeks ago Brussels ruled that the French can no longer ban the advertisement of novels on television. The French feared that blockbuster novels, fueled by aggressive TV campaigns, will drive out more serious literature.

It should be clearer than ever that the French will have to give up their vision of the American bogeyman. France and America have many common interests. The real fear of (many of) the French is modernity and commercial culture, not American culture per se. In fact American culture, and the American presence on the world scene, might in the long run give France an appropriate counterweight to an EU that is growing in power and influence.

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