Canal critics flush demure Lescure

Books on company to come out in October

PARIS — Since last year’s creation of Vivendi Universal, conglom chief Jean-Marie Messier has assiduously courted the media, appearing in glossy magazines and even finding time to pen a much-talked-about book.

By contrast, Canal Plus topper Pierre Lescure’s penchant for the shadows has prompted some to dub him “Pierre the Obscure.”

But all that’s about to change, with the publication Oct. 17 of “Histoire de Desirs,” an autobiography that Lescure has rattled out in an impressively rapid three months with the help of Studio magazine editor Jean-Pierre Lavoignat.

The blurb put out by publisher Les Editions du Seuil promises that Lescure will tell it all, from childhood in a Paris suburb where he was raised by Communist parents to his central role in the creation of the newest global media giant.

So what prompted Lescure to reach for his pen? Literary outpourings, it would appear, of an altogether more negative tone.

The bookshelf bust-up began with the recent publication of Benoit Delmas and Eric Mahe’s “A Media Western,” subtitled “The Misadventures of Cinema in Vivendi Land.”

Gallic gunplay

In this slim but explosive volume, published by Mille et Une Nuits, the authors postulate that Vivendi Universal, like the bad guy in a cowboy movie, will surely lodge a bullet in French cinema’s back.

It is a nagging fear shared by quite a few in the French film industry, which receives a quarter of its finance — 900 million francs ($126.5 million) a year — from pay TV channel Canal Plus — money, some suspect, that Vivendi Universal would prefer to invest in Hollywood’s more bankable product.

Another tome, “The True Adventure of Canal Plus,” penned by Le Monde editor Jacques Buob and journalist Pascal Merigeau and published by Fayard, looks set to inflict more damage when it hits bookstands Oct 3.

Orwellian nightmare

Tracing Canal Plus from its origins as a broadcasting upstart in 1984, it, too, finishes by lamenting that the pay TV powerhouse has fallen under Messier’s control. It concludes rather theatrically with the comment: “If Messier’s mediocre ambition is merely to become a ‘Master of the Universe,’ Canal will simply disappear inside an Orwellian, totalitarian entity.”

And a third book delving into Canal Plus’ background called “The Canal Plus Saga,” published by Grasset and written by journo Valerie Lecasble, also comes out Oct. 3.

Perhaps Lescure’s autobiography will dispel such gloom. Until publication, though, its contents are being kept strictly under wraps.

“No one’s seen it, including Messier” a Canal Plus source tells Variety, “but Pierre wants to set the record straight on a number of issues — and show himself and the events of the past year in a truer light than these other books.”

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