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Unifrance topper talks detente

Du Plantier sees 'new era' for Gallic cinema

NEW YORK — A new spirit of bonhomie is flowing from Paris to Hollywood, Unifrance prexy Daniel Toscan du Plantier declared Monday.

The film tariffs that led to bruising battles in the early 1990s, nearly derailing the GATT negotiations, aren’t likely to emerge as a stumbling block in the next trade talks between Washington and Paris, du Plantier said.

“We now have something to defend in common — copyright,” he said.

France won’t abandon its fierce protection of Gallic cinema, du Plantier said, but the nation’s film industry is opening up.

“We know we have to deal more with the world,” he said. “We don’t have enough partners with our neighbors. Our main problem is we don’t strive to build a strong European film policy.”

Changing relationship

Du Plantier was in New York to preside over this year’s Rendezvous with French Cinema fest, sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Unifrance and the French Cultural Services. His comments came in a freewheeling conversation with Daily Variety covering Hollywood’s changing relationship with Paris.

The rise of Vivendi Universal has already had an impact, he said. Vivendi’s acquisition of U marks “a new era” in French cinema, according to du Plantier.

“For once, the French film industry makes a strong decision not to play games with Hollywood but to get inside Hollywood,” he said.

Vivendi head Jean-Marie Messier “wants to respect the rules on which Canal Plus was built 15 years ago,” du Plantier said. Those rules stipulate that Canal Plus will contribute 10% of its gross revenues — nowadays, more than 900 million French francs ($129 million) a year — to a French film fund.

Du Plantier also noted that the Bush administration has yet to display much interest in Hollywood or its influence abroad.

“I don’t think you can be an American president and not consider it an essential industry,” both economically and as a representation of the American dream, he said.

“Texas is not the center of the film industry,” he quipped.

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