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Wednesday, 30 January, 2002, 16:34 GMT
Record-breaking release for Asterix
Asterix: Mission Cleopatra
Miramax bought US rights before the film was even completed
Asterix, doughty defender of the Gauls against the Romans, is being pressed into action to defend modern France against Hollywood.

Asterix: Mission Cleopatra, the second most-expensive French film ever made, was released in a record 900 French cinemas on Wednesday.

The 50m euro (£30m) film stars Gerard Depardieu and uses computerised special effects to replicate the cartoon world of the original comic book series.

Monica Bellucci
Monica Bellucci plays Cleopatra
The film has been buoyed by some good early reviews and a major marketing blitz - which includes French outlets of McDonald's.

The launch also takes place at a time of some optimism that France's cinema industry is starting to beat off Hollywood.

Two recent French films, Amelie and The Brotherhood Of The Wolves, have been major overseas successes - even in the US, normally resistant to foreign-language movies.

And the movie's predecessor, Asterix And Obelix Versus Caesar, made 117m euros (£71m), without even being seen in the US.

Last year Miramax bought the US distribution rights for the film - and for the new Asterix vehicle, then in production.

Debate

Besides Depardieu, Asterix: Mission Cleopatra stars Christian Clavier as Asterix and Monica Bellucci as a ravishing Cleopatra.

The success of homegrown big-budget films has sparked debate in France.

Farmer José Bové
Farmer Bové has led protest against McDonald's
While many cheer an industry seen to be beating Hollywood at its own game, some intellectuals fear that the country's own style of thoughtful film-making may be lost.

The political significance of Asterix's success is not lost in France, where the question of l'exception Française - the country's supposed cultural uniqueness - has been hotly-debated in recent times.

It may not be coincidence that Christian Clavier's Asterix bears an uncanny resemblance to the real-life French anti-globalisation campaigner, José Bové.

See also:

20 Dec 01 | Showbiz
McDonald's takes on Asterix
20 Jun 01 | Arts
Asterix conquers the Russians
22 Mar 01 | Europe
Bove loses McDonald's raid appeal
22 Mar 01 | Reviews
Asterix acts up
15 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Asterix punches his way back
14 Mar 01 | Europe
Asterix back in the bookshops
04 Feb 99 | Entertainment
The magic runs out for Asterix
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