The Netflix Film Club, a wolf in the fold of cinephilia

At the end of October, the film industry was crying out loud, scalded by the prospect of a Netflix festival in arthouse theaters in mid-December. With scathing press releases, professional organizations were moved by the new attempt of the US platform to enter French cinemas … in the midst of negotiations on the chronology of the media which governs the order of distribution of films and models the virtuous financing of the seventh art in France. Faced with this last stand, Netflix took a step back, taking refuge in two flagships of the hexagonal cinephilia.

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Thus opens, this Tuesday, December 7, in relative anonymity, a retrospective of films stamped Netflix at the French Cinémathèque and at the Institut Lumière. This is only a half-surprise, as the American firm has been weaving its web for years. Already, she had made a first step forward by inviting herself to compete in Cannes, in 2017, with the excellent Okja, by Bong Joon-ho (copiously hissed by part of the profession during his official presentation), and the most gossipy The Meyerowitz Stories, by Noah Baumbach.

“Capitalist predation strategy”

The boss of the Cannes Film Festival, Thierry Frémaux, also director general of the Institut Lumière, finally backed down the following year, introducing a theatrical release clause. The few cinemas which had undertaken to show the feature film by Bong Joon-ho, returned in 2019 to the Croisette with to win the gold palm, had been copiously scolded by their fellows. Stéphane Goudet, artistic director of Méliès de Montreuil, a public cinema in Seine-Saint-Denis, had suffered these wrath: “We had not obtained a provisional visa from the CNC. We therefore organized a free screening. ” The many rejected had taken the opportunity to distribute themselves to other rooms, thus allowing this art house cinema to achieve record admissions for a Wednesday evening.

From there to say that Netflix and its exceptional projections are the panacea? ” The “I don’t see the problem” rhetoric is irresponsible in the midst of media timeline negotiations. But it is not the same to demand the abolition of the media chronology and to schedule special sessions. Netflix has a capitalist predatory strategy, it’s obvious, you can’t be fooled. But we must not give in to binary discourse, even if Netflix has a logic of legitimation ”, continues Stéphane Goudet.

Sponsorship and partnerships

In this strategy, Netflix has become a patron of the Cinémathèque. Better still, in the pursuit of its local policy where globalization pays attention to local particularities, Netflix has put money on the table for the restoration of the legendary Napoleon, by Abel Gance, orchestrated by the Cinémathèque. He has, officially, not asked for compensation for this film thought by the director to be broadcast on three screens. This partnership is only one among others, since the firm, which opened Parisian offices in 2020, also collaborates with French film schools, from the prestigious Fémis to Kourtrajmé, a provider of talent from the neighborhoods.

If the Cinémathèque refused to respond to our interview requests, the Lumière Institute is communicating on its retrospective of 9 films. “We seize this desire for cinema and the opportunity to show these films to the Lyon public. We will congratulate or disapprove of this type of initiative – about platforms and the place they now occupy in the landscape, the debates are numerous and passionate. The Institut Lumière does not benefit from Netflix. We are free and often screen works that do not come out in theaters. (…) Our credo is the big screen. We are there for that. “

And the films in all this?

The Utopia network, one of the spearheads of independent cinema in the French regions, is on the same line. Asked to schedule Netflix films, he had given his consent. Before Netflix backs off. “What matters to us are the films. We ask ourselves the question of which films we want to show and share. We took advantage of Kornél Mundruczó’s visit to the Festival d’Avignon this summer to welcome him and show Pieces of a woman. We practice multiprogramming. Distributors get angry for 8 out of 175 sessions during the week. I don’t hear them much when arthouse cinemas are showing Disney ”, annoys Sophie Zamichiei, from Utopia Avignon.

All we are asking is that Netflix invest in cinema with clauses to ensure diversity and the discovery of authors by financing films for less than 4 million euros. Rosalie Brun General Delegate at the Society of Film Directors

“If it weren’t for this aggressiveness of Netflix in relation to theaters, we would have experienced it differently. In addition, we experienced this event in a very unfavorable context for independent distributors ”, advances Étienne Ollagnier, distributor at Jour2fête and president of the Syndicate of independent distributors. Concerning filmmakers also dominates. “We are not in a virtuous functioning of the cinema. All we are asking is that Netflix invest in cinema with clauses to ensure diversity and the discovery of authors by funding films for less than 4 million euros ”, claims Rosalie Brun, general delegate at the Society of Film Directors.

And the films in all this? Admittedly, in the medium of flow, Netflix gives food and drink to its subscribers. Still, the retrospectives program promises to be tempting. The western The Power of the dog, by Jane Campion, rubs shoulders with the tragic Neapolitan fantasy of Paolo Sorrentino, God’s hand, WhereDon’t look up, the three-star cast comedy from Adam McKay.

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The Netflix Film Club, a wolf in the fold of cinephilia