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Exception Taken: How France Has Defied Hollywood's New World Order

by Jonathan Buchsbaum Columbia University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 424 pages
AU$68.00 NZ$68.70
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In Exception Taken, Jonathan Buchsbaum examines the movements that have emerged in opposition to the homogenizing force of Hollywood in global filmmaking. While European cinema was entering a steady decline in the 1980s, France sought to strengthen support for its film industry under the new Mitterrand government. Over the following decades, the country lobbied partners in the European Economic Community to design strategies to protect the audiovisual industries and to resist cultural free-trade pressures in international trade agreements. These struggles to preserve the autonomy of national artistic prerogatives emboldened many countries to question the benefits of accelerated globalization.


Led by the energetic minister of culture Jack Lang, France initiated a series of measures to support all sectors of the film industry. Lang introduced laws mandating that state and private television invest in the film industry, effectively replacing the revenue lost from a shrinking theatrical audience for French films. With the formation of the European Union in 1992, Europe passed a new treaty (Maastricht) that extended its legal purview to culture for the first time, setting up the dramatic confrontation over the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) in 1993.


Pushed by France, the EU fought the United States over the idea that countries should preserve their right to regulate cultural activity as they saw fit. France and Canada then initiated a campaign to protect cultural diversity within UNESCO that led to the passage of the Convention on Cultural Diversity in 2005. As France pursued these efforts to protect cultural diversity beyond its borders, it also articulated "a certain idea of cinema" that did not simply defend a narrow vision of national cinema. France promoted both commercial cinema and art cinema, disproving announcements of the death of cinema.


List of FiguresPrefaceList of AbbreviationsIntroduction1. International Domination by the U.S. Film Industry2. The Lang Years3. European Film Policy and Television Without Frontiers4. GATT5. From Canal+ to Canal-6. Bilan(s)7. From Cultural Exception to Cultural Diversity8. Was the Experience Beneficial?ConclusionAppendix A. A Note on SourcesAppendix B. Calculation of Automatic Aid in FranceAppendix C. The Compte de soutien: A SchematicAppendix D. Financing French Film: A SchematicAppendix E. Grants to Art et essai TheatersAppendix F. Films Chosen for High School Students in Lyc?ens et apprentis au cin?maAppendix G. List of Films Aided by Fonds SudAppendix H. First Films in French Film ProductionNotesBibliographyIndex

Exception Taken explains and explores a striking state of affairs that most film lovers take for granted: the continued survival, in a globalized, "free" media market, of minority film cultures. This is one of the best- and most thoroughly researched books on cinema that I have ever read, on one of the most important subjects in contemporary world cinema... Buchsbaum tells the story of a political-legal process that has done more to shape the form and content of the modern audiovisual experience than anything else in recent history, and importantly, he shows us why it is so crucial to cinema's future.

Jonathan Buchsbaum is professor of media studies at Queens College, City University of New York, where he works on political filmmaking. He is the author of Cinema and the Sandinistas: Filmmaking in Revolutionary Nicaragua (2010) and Cinema Engage: Film in the Popular Front (1988).