A few weeks ago, Don Morrison of Time Magazine suggested that French culture was on the decline. Morrison bemoaned the fact that the French take their culture seriously. He tsk-tsked fashion magazines for carrying serious book reviews (he says this like it’s a bad thing!) and small towns from putting on opera and theater festivals. Morrison’s main gripe was that “[a]ll of these mighty oaks being felled in France’s cultural forest make barely a sound in the wider world.” And that because of this, France was “a wilting power in the global cultural marketplace.”
The chief problem with Morrison’s essay, aside from its considerable hubris, is the term “cultural marketplace.” Why must culture be dependent on the marketplace? In addition, Morrison’s stupendous ignorance of contemporary French cinema — I’m nowhere nearly as steeped in French cinema as I once was, but has this dilettante not even heard of François Ozon or Gaspar Noé? — leads him to report that “France’s movie industry, the world’s largest a century ago, has yet to recapture its New Wave eminence of the 1960s, when directors like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard were rewriting cinematic rules.” Is Morrison complaining about the French film industry in 1907 or the 1960s? Or is he just a hopelessly confused man? And if box office gross is the paramount distinction, what of 2001’s Amélie ($33 million U.S. gross), 2003’s The Triplets of Belleville ($7 million), 2003’s Swimming Pool ($10 million), or 2006’s Arthur and the Invisibles ($15 million)? And why doesn’t he cite any contemporary examples? Wild stab in the dark, but could it be that Morrison doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about?
I’d plunge into this essay further, but thankfully Bernard Henri-Levy has done my work for me, dispensing with this yokel’s argument quite adeptly and including a helpful taxonomy of axioms.
(Thanks, Gonzalo, for the tip.)