French cultural digest: December 2020

A round up of five arts and culture stories creating a buzz in France in the last few weeks of 2020

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1. Donations call for unique Proust book

La Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF, The National Library of France) has called for donations to help it secure the acquisition of a “particularly precious” original edition of Marcel Proust’s Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way) which contains a dedication letter by Proust to his friend Marie Scheikévitch.

The book is the first part of Proust’s famous seven-part novel A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time).

In a press release, the BNF underlined “the priceless literary and patrimonial interest” of the copy gifted by Proust. However, it did not specify from whom it hopes to acquire the book, nor its price.

2. Streaming deal discussions

Under proposed legislation, subscription video platforms such as Netflix and Amazon would need to direct up to 25% of the turnover they generate in France towards production of French or European films and series, said the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot in an interview with Les Echos.

In return, the platforms would benefit from a relaxation of what is known as “media chronology” – the time lapse between a film’s cinema release and when it can be streamed online. This currently stands at three years.

In the interests of parity, Bachelot is set to discuss similar measures for France’s major media players like Canal+, TF1 and M6, who are also calling for a relaxation of regulations.

3. French voice of Sean Connery dies

Claude Giraud, the Comédie Française actor who gave voice to the French dubbed performances of top Hollywood stars including Sean Connery, Alan Rickman and Robert Redford, has died aged 84 – just a few days after Connery himself passed away.

Clermont-Ferrand-born Giraud achieved iconic comedy status in France in 1973, when he starred as Mohamed Larbi Slimane, alias Rabbi Zeiligman, in The Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (1973) alongside Louis de Funès (pictured).

He then established himself as highly regarded and in-demand ‘dubbing actor’, voicing Robert Redford in most of his films, as well as Mel Gibson, Tommy Lee Jones (in Men in Black), Harrison Ford (The Raiders of the Lost Ark), Sean Connery (The Name of the Rose) and Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List. Later he voiced Alan Rickman’s Professor Snape in the Harry Potter series.

4. Last-chance laughter gives cinemas a boost

Comedy fans seeking one last big laugh prior to the latest lockdown which began on October 30, flocked to the cinema to make action-comedy film Adieu les cons (Farewell, fools) one of the year’s biggest opening-week hits.

It shifted 600,000 tickets, while in total there were 3.2million admissions in the week before confinement, an increase of 67% compared to the previous week.

Adieu les cons, starring Albert Dupontel and Virginie Efira, is a satire on modern mores, especially the nitpicking nature of of France’s administrative processes, and is about a woman trying to find the child she gave up for adoption when aged 15.

5. Lyon through the lens

Striking snapshots of the city of Lyon, as well as images of some major figures from the art world who lived and worked there between 1945 and 1971, are the subjects of a new Robert Doisneau exhibition at the Musée Jean Couty de Lyon.

Running until April, the expo of 90 photographs includes around 20 previously unseen ones, and features artists such as Picasso with his ‘bread hands’ at his Vallauris studio and Giacometti posing in his studio.

There are also about thirty views of Lyon taken in the 1950s, when Doisneau was a contributor to Vogue magazine.

The exhibition was created in collaboration with l’Atelier Robert Doisneau, founded by the photographer’s two daughters. Doisneau died in 1994.

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