The cause is the declining interest of television channels. In 2017 they still contributed on average more than 35% of the budget for a feature film, but this figure has dropped to 25% by 2019.
France is making more films, but they are getting less and less funding and average attendances in movie theatres are going down.
The amount that Canal+ is obliged to invest in the seventh art is linked to their turnover. Since this is decreasing, the main bankroller of French cinema is funding fewer films.
We will end up pining for the days when large cigar-chomping men gambled what was left of their fortune on a roulette wheel in the hope of being able to pay their crew at the end of the week. At least we had passion, some crazy excitement.
Our cinema has grown bland. It is increasingly indistinguishable from television because filmmakers have become accustomed to making films for the small screen. As a result, international sales have plummeted.
Can you imagine a gilets jaunes-style protest in Paris after the dismissal of the film archive (French Cinemathèque) manager? May '68 unfolded in 24 images per second; 2019 has been shown in 25 images per second because the events that occurred needed the non-stop news channels.
Where is the outraged actor who could give a fiery speech amid banners calling for the resignation of the Minister of Culture whose name nobody knows? Malraux is laughing from his lofty perch.
The survival of cinema always depends on two opposites coming together: the economic and the artistic. That blissful union of art and money that Hollywood achieves so well.
On the Champs Élysées passers-by no longer believe in actors. None are ever seen at Le Fouquet's, except for the César ceremony.
Tourists do not know that Jean Seberg used to hand out the New York Herald Tribune there dressed in a tight white t-shirt.
It is better to have a happy memory because, in a perfect world, people would only remember the good films.
Until now cinema has managed to adapt to different types of funding, techniques and audiences. Each time it did so after its death was foretold. We have to be on our guard but beware of Cassandra. Can we continue to live without taking account of the world around us, starting with the profusion of platforms? That is the vital question over the coming months.
As this year of agitation draws to a close, I am reminded of the expression invented in 1968 by the poet Pierre Béarn, who summed up workers' daily grind as: “Métro, boulot, dodo” (“Subway, job, sleep”). Now the metro has ground to a halt and jobs are disappearing, all that is left is sleep!
I wish you a happy 2020. My new year's resolution is to be as serious as pleasure.
“Rush in, boy, punch in your number
And so earn the wages
Of a dreary utilitarian day
Subway, job, bar, smokes, sleep, nothing”
Pierre Béarn, Couleurs d'usine (Factory Colours), 1951 poem