Julien Planté: Beyond The New Wave

The man who has programmed over a thousand European film festivals tells us why he's now on a one-man mission to bring arthouse cinema to the masses

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French cinema is undoubtedly the greatest in the world, from the early experimentalism of masters such as Varda, Godard and Truffaut to the fairytale-like vision of Jeunet and the stark brilliance of Jacques Audiard, there is arguably no other culture that has consistently produced such rich and varied cinematic fare. Unfortunately, many of these films are still only ever seen by a minority outside of film festivals and their native France, which is is why the renowned cinephile Julien Planté has been devoting his time to curating the first television channel to be devoted solely to French film. Headed up by Left Bank royalty Jane Birkin and premiering myriad rare shorts and films unavailable before in this country, the result is a refreshing proposition in a vast sea of tele-visual dross, curated by a genuine expert. We took some time out with Planté to find out why he is on a mission to bring Cinemoi to the masses.

Dazed Digital:What do you think makes French Cinema so unique?
Julien Planté:
In France, we really respect the point of view of the director as the auteur and we are the only country in the world where the director has the final cut. Also, many French directors try to provoke and challenge the audience rather than entertain them, and I think that is very important. For me, a filmmaker has done their job if the film makes you cry, laugh or vomit. I mean, you can refuse to see a film like Irreversible, but the director has a duty to provoke something in you.

DD: Who do you consider to be the greatest French director?
JP:
 Agnes Varda. In my mind, Varda was a precursor of the New Wave. One of her very early shorts is just made up of photos – pictures of the homeless people in Paris at the end of The 50s – all of which are as good as any of Bresson's. Fifty years later she made The Gleaner’s Eye, which looks at these people who throw away potatoes. It’s amazing, but she can really make a story out of nothing.

DD: Do you think there is an experimental aesthetic missing from modern cinema?
JP:
 I think there are certainly some things that have disappeared in the way we make film. Haneke’s White Ribbon is proably the closest modern film that has come close to some of the black-and-white films of the 60s in its purity. I think perhaps some directors now are more drawn to employing technology to tell their story, but often the technology does not serve the story. If you have a tracking shot that starts at the top of a mountain and slowly swoops down to a man drinking a coffee who has nothing more interesting to say than ‘Can you pass the sugar?” What is the point of it really? The script is the most important element and perhaps that has been lost. Jean Renoir said, ‘Banality filmed with elegance can reach the universal.’ I think that’s quite true. The great French directors make films about the small things in life and reveal incredible universal truths.

DD: Do you think there are any directors today taking the risks directors like Godard and Truffaut were?
JP:
 A few, but it’s at the boundaries of art and we tend to call it experimental cinema, which instantly creates walls. Every film should be seen by the widest possible audience.

DD: Is that what you are trying to do?
JP:
 I am very interested in us showing a lot of of films that would not be seen otherwise. Since I started to curate this channel, we have shown at least 75 films that have never been seen before in this country and I have done the subtitles for over 40 films. I mean, I did a season on Belmondo, and made subtitles for three of his titles that have never been seen here before.

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