'French' war film takes flak for US funding

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The Independent Online

A long-awaited new film by the most successful French director-and-actress team for decades reaches the screens in France today. But is it a French film?

A long-awaited new film by the most successful French director-and-actress team for decades reaches the screens in France today. But is it a French film?

Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles features the director and actress who made Amélie a global triumph in 2001. The movie is about the First World War and its aftermath. It stars Audrey Tautou (ex- Amélie ) as Mathilde, a young woman who refuses to believe the official story that her fiancé was killed "on the field of honour" in January 1917.

For the first time in French cinematic history, the film tackles desertion and self-mutilation among soldiers of the Great War - the subject of a Stanley Kubrick film, Paths of Glory (1957), which was banned in France until 1975.

But most of the €45m (£31m) needed to make the film, including some of the most horrifically realistic battle scenes ever filmed, came from Warner Brothers in Hollywood.

Can the film also qualify for a €3.6m subsidy from the national agency that supports film making, partly by imposing a tax on cinema entrance tickets?

The Centre National de la Cinématographie says it can. The film was made in French, in France, with a French director, mostly French actors and French technicians. But a group of French film-making companies have brought a legal action to block the subsidy payment.

They argue that the system of national aids to the cinema, long-disputed by Washington as against free trade, is meant to preserve the French industry from domination by Hollywood. It should not be raided by Hollywood studios.

The film will appear in British cinemas in January under its flat English title, A Very Long Engagement .

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