July 5, 2020

The César earthquake opens a crack in French cultural power | Culture


In France, things were done differently. This was not the USA. This was, after all, the country in which, in full revelations about the abuses of producer Harvey Weinstein and in full wave of the Me Too, a group of feminist veterans, headed by the cinematographic icon Catherine Deneuve, defended in a gallery in the press the “right to be imported” by men. This was the country that entertained Roman Polanski while on the other shore of the Atlantic he was treated as a stinker. It was the country with the most exquisite core of the literary elite: publishers, writers, critics … The bud of Saint-Germain-des-Près protected and jellyd a writer like Gabriel Matzneff, who for decades had everything Luxury of detail in their diaries their experiences with 14 and 15 year old girls in Paris or with even younger children in Manila.

All this begins to change. Matzneff should be tried in 2021. And the crisis in French cinema, which in two weeks will celebrate the annual kermes of the César awards, It is the last example, the most recent case of a cultural institution whose foundations tremble. The direction of the Academy of Cinema presented its “collective resignation” Thursday night.

The resignation, a convulsion in the sector, comes days after a letter in which almost half a thousand actors and filmmakers demanded a profound reform in the methods of government of the organization, criticized the opacity of the accounts and decisions, and pointed out the flagrant lack of parity between men and women. To this is added the stupefaction, among a film sector and among feminist groups, for the 12 nominations to the César de The officer and the spy, the last Roman Polanski film, required by the US Justice for the case, in 1977, of Samantha Geimer, who was 13 years old, and now faced with new accusations of rape.

“To honor those and those who made the cinema in 2019, to recover the serenity and make the film party continue to be a party, the Board of Directors for the Promotion of Cinema, the Academy of Arts and Techniques of Cinema has made the unanimous decision to resign, ”said the statement. The gala is scheduled on February 28.

The protest letter, published on Monday in Le monde, is signed by actors such as Bérénice Bejo, Chiara Mastroianni or Omar Sy and filmmakers such as Michel Hazanavicius, Bertrand Tavernier, Agnès Jaoui, Jacques Audiard or Céline Sciamma. The complaints surpassed the question of sexism. The litigation has a part of power struggle and union discussion, as well as a pulse between the most popular and elitist cinema. Also of generational struggle, in which the president of the Academy, producer Alain Terzian, was in question.

Terzian, at the press conference in which the nominations of the César were announced, on January 29, in Paris.


Terzian, at the press conference in which the nominations of the César were announced, on January 29, in Paris. Getty Images

That everything is more complicated is evidenced by the fact that one of the signatories, actor Mathieu Amalric, is an actor in the Polanski film and next to it, as Michel Guerrin, a chronicler of Friday’s article, recalls in an article published on Friday Le monde. But Guerrin adds: “Without a doubt, it is the feminist issue that dominates. Because, if the rebels now come to light, and not yesterday, it is first of all because there are only 35% of women among the Caesar voters. ” Moreover, of the 47 members of the institution’s general assembly, only eight are women, and on its board of directors they are six of 21. A trigger for the crisis was the veto of two consecrated women, the writer Virginie Despentes and the director Claire Denis, as godmothers of two actors in the gala dedicated to the “young revelations” of the César, on January 13.

In the case of the César and Matzneff’s, despite the obvious differences, there is a change in moral standards, the questioning of fundamental institutions in the manufacture of the canon in the cinematographic or literary awards, and the tension between what many in France they perceive as an “americanization” of moral norms and what others, on the contrary, see as a neo-neuritanism that will end up limiting creative freedom.

The journalist Bernard Pivot, presenter for decades of successful literary programs on television, summed up the discomfort in a message on Twitter at the end of December. “In the 70s and 80s, literature prevailed over morals; Today, morality prevails before literature. Morally it is progress. We are more or less intellectual and moral products of a country and, above all, of an era ”. Pivot reacted to the publication of The consent, the book in which the editor Vanessa Springora reconstructs her relationship with Matzneff when she was 14 years old and he, 50, as well as the sequels she left him. The book is not so much a revelation – almost everything Springora tells Matzneff told it in his diaries – as an act of accusation against a part of the cultural and political elites that protected the author.

On Wednesday a first hearing was held before the Correctional Court of Paris. Matzneff, who is in Italy and was represented by his lawyer, was charged with apology for child rape. On the same day, the researchers searched Gallimard’s headquarters in search of unpublished texts. The publisher has removed the most controversial books from bookstores.

France is still France, but the idea that the artist is allowed everything — be one of the brightest of his time, like Polanski; or a dark diarist, like Matzneff — begins to question himself. A French exception that, in part a sexual exception, shows signs of fragility.

More protests against Polanski

The 12 nominations of The officer and the spyby Roman Polanski, who leads the race for the César awards, have further aggravated the crisis of the French Film Academy. In recent days, several feminist associations have called academics not to vote for Polanski’s film. The movie, inspired by the Dreyfus caseShe has been accompanied by controversy since her presentation at the Venice Film Festival, when the president of the jury, Argentina’s Lucrecia Martel, refused to attend the gala premiere in protest to her inclusion in the official section. In early November, five days before its premiere in France, photographer Valentine Monnier accused Polanski of having raped her in 1975, when she was 18 years old. The arrival of the film in French cinemas has since been involved in protests.

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