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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 09:43 GMT
Amelie film-maker in court battle
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed Amelie
The director of hit movie Amelie is fighting in the French courts to prove his latest film is really French.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement has drawn rave reviews ahead of its US opening on 26 November.

But rival producers are challenging Jeunet's right to French government subsidies, because the film's backers include US studio Warner Brothers.

"It's completely surrealistic," Jeunet said. The film - which stars Audrey Tautou - opens in the UK on 21 January.

Jeunet has argued A Very Long Engagement was filmed in France and used French actors and technicians.

No problem

He pointed out that director Oliver Stone's Alexander the Great received funding from the French Government despite not being filmed in France or in French.

"Oliver Stone's movie Alexander is French -- his mother is French and he did the post-production in Paris so it's French, no problem. And this one is not French, can you believe it?," said Jeunet.

Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou has starred in two of Jeunet's films
Set during World War I, A Very Long Engagement is one of France's most expensive films, costing about 45 million euros (31.5m) to produce.

Investment was provided by a group of French companies including Warner Brothers France.

Two associations of French producers are contesting its French origins because the money did not come wholly from French sources and therefore should not be eligible for French subsidies.

The subsidies could be as high as millions of euros depending how well the film does at the box office.

"It's just a question of commercial competition," Jeunet said.

"The producers are obsessed because there's a new studio and they don't want to share the cake. It's very cynical, very hypocritical."

He added that it would be a shame if Warner Brothers backed out of funding French films and took their money to Italy or Spain following the row.

Completely different

France is staunchly protective of its cinema and goes to great lengths to avoid the influence of Hollywood.

Director CS Leigh, who works mainly in France, said the French film industry was perhaps not as strong as it had been but was still diverse.

"It's healthier than most countries but it has been healthier. There are still a lot of French films being made and a lot of them are completely different which is good," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Frenchman Francois Ivernel, head of Pathe UK, was positive about the strength of French cinema and its quality and diversity.

"There are more films being made in France today than a few years ago," he told Today.

"Last year alone 180 films were made in France, a few years ago there was 100.

"So I think the diversity is increasing and some films are extremely cutting edge, like Anatomy of Hell, which is completely cutting edge."

Jeunet's eccentric eye
22 Feb 02 |  Entertainment
Audrey Tautou's dirty challenge
07 Nov 02 |  Entertainment

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