New Gallic culture chief tackles ‘atomic’ issues

Aillagon offers audio-visual agenda at fest cocktail

New French culture and communications minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon charmed the film community Friday at the traditional fest cocktail thrown by the Centre National de la Cinematographie.

No one expected Aillagon to lay out an extended audio-visual agenda. Unless French president Jacques Chirac manages to win the legislature in June, Aillagon will be out of a job.

But the new minister was quick to state his point of view on several “atomic” issues, as he called them, namely the Canal Plus/Vivendi situation, the digital terrestial television agenda and public service broadcasting.

“The Canal Plus situation worries me, especially where it applies to film financing,” Aillagon stated. “A company like Vivendi touches on many sectors — cinema, TV, records, books, press — and the government must be attentive to what’s going on.”

Aillagon, wearing an un-govermental fuschia tie and lavender shirt, cuts a dashing figure and was quick to dispense with formalities. He addressed CNC topper David Kessler, whom he called a friend, with the familiar “tu,” saying there was no reason to be formal with each other just because they were in public.

Regarding TNT, Aillagon said he was not opposed to a technological development that allows the largest number of people to have accesss to the most channels possible but added that it must not compromise the relationship between cinema and TV.

“I’m attached to strong public service,” the minister also explained. “But it must be true to its mission and not fall into banality.”

He also reminded the community that as head of the prestigious Pompidou Center museum he had worked hard to integrate cinema into an institution that deals primarily with the static arts.

The crowd applauded when Aillagon opted for not reading his prepared speech. “I was told I looked awful in my glasses,” he joked.