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Hidden in Plain Sight: UK Promotion, Exhibition and Reception of Contemporary French Film Narrative

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Abstract

Heavily dominated by Hollywood imports, Britain has long been considered a difficult market for foreign-language films. Despite representing more than 35 per cent of the films released in Britain between 2002 and 2009, subtitled films only gathered 3 per cent of the box-office takings.1 The limited appeal of foreign-language films has often been attributed to ‘the almost pathological British fear of subtitles’, yet the availability of films, determined by their distribution pattern, and their discursive surround equally shape their box-office limitations.2 In 2001, the success of a few subtitled films at the British box office led both film critics and industry members alike to announce the dawn of a new era, a drastic change in the way British audiences would watch subtitled films. Critic Ian Johns claimed that films such as Amélie/Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (2001) and Brotherhood of the Wolf/Le Pacte des loups (2001) heralded a new trend in French cinema. Arguing that such ‘genre-blending films’ were causing British audiences to reassess their expectations.3 Philippe Rostain, head of international sales for the French film company Gaumont SA, similarly claimed in 2001 that French cinema had finally ‘freed itself from its arthouse ghetto’, while French critic Elizabeth Lequeret claimed that a new era of French genre film was about to revolutionise French cinema’s image.4

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  • Sunday Time
  • Theatrical Release
  • British Audience

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Notes

  1. A report for the Centre National de la Cinématographie showed that in the 1980s, four prints constituted a wide release for a French-language film; but in 2007, nine French-language films were distributed on more than 40 prints. Caroline Dequet, Rapport Sur La Distribution Et L’exportation Du Film Français En Europe (Paris: CNC, 1991), 44;

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  2. Cécile Renaud, Selling French Cinema to British Audiences: 2001–2009 (unpublished thesis, University of Southampton, 2012), Appendix A.

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  3. Mark Betz, Beyond the Subtitle: Remapping European Art Cinema (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 28.

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  16. Catherine Grant, ‘Auteur Machines? Auteurism and the DVD’, in Film and Television after DVD, eds. James Bennett and Tom Brown (London: Taylor & Francis, 2008), 101–115.

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  17. On the association between French cinema and the thriller genre, see Jill Forbes, The Cinema in France after the New Wave (London: British Film Institute, 1992), 53.

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© 2015 Cécile Renaud

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Renaud, C. (2015). Hidden in Plain Sight: UK Promotion, Exhibition and Reception of Contemporary French Film Narrative. In: Pearson, R., Smith, A.N. (eds) Storytelling in the Media Convergence Age. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137388155_11

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