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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 13:18 GMT
French hit out at US cinema
Bernard Tavernier
Tavernier says children do not know how to watch films

French directiors and intellectuals say American films are producing a generation of "stupid children" in the country.

As is the case in most countries around the world, the majority of films shown in French cinemas are American.

But a number of French critics are attacking Hollywood movies for what they see as a poverty of ideas, which in turn is having an adverse effect on the country's children.

In particular, they single out high-profile special effects-driven blockbusters as responsible.

It is a non-culture, a non-civilisation, just a way of life
French critic Phillipe Rogier on American culture
"If the technology is controlling us, it will transform us into stupid children, and in a way, part of the American cinema does that," French director Bertrand Tavernier told the BBC World Service's Meridian Masterpiece programme.

'Art is dead'

"I go very often to schools, and I have found a lot of young kids have difficulties in analysing a concept, an idea, in a film."

He added that now children only went to films to see the special effects.

"They are enjoying the technology. They are able to watch, very easily, if a special effect is good or bad, if it is well done.

"They will admire very much how the Nazi officer is blowing up the brains of somebody in Schindler's List, they say 'oh that's very well done, it's exciting.'."

Poster for Schindler's List
Tavernier says children enjoy Schindler's List for the wrong reasons

American arts writer Peter Pullman, who was born in New York but now lives in Paris, agrees.

"The great art that my country produced - I suspect that those movements are dead," Pullman said.

American 'non-culture'

"I don't see anything coming out of my country in the cinema that has anything anywhere near the inventive quotient that the cinema did of the past.

"If we look at what the United States is exporting to the world that is creative, it has to do with computer, it has to do with software, it has to do with other kinds of technology - not the ideas."

But Phillipe Rogier, author of L'Enemie Americain, said the French were not willingly accepting the increase in American culture in their society.

"The French would not call it a culture - it is a non-culture, a non-civilisation, just a way of life," Rogier contends.

"This has been central to French attitudes towards America.

Poster for Attack Of The Clones
French critics say American films rely too much on technology
"As early as 1927, the French Government had made a failed attempt at limiting the number of American movies being shown in France."

Ultimately, Tavernier insists, the films are the first step of an American takeover of France.

"The Americans understood that if they are forcing the people to see the film, the people who see the film will buy the product - they will buy hamburgers, they will buy Coca-Cola, they will buy the clothes - and maybe they will buy their policy," he said.

"They always understood that the first way to occupy a country was to impose their films."

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