Ça Plane Pour CinéMoi

CinéMoi, currently available on Sky, is the world's first channel devoted to French cinema. Julien Planté, who is in charge of CinéMoi's programming, speaks to Rockfort about this unique, and very welcome, undertaking.

Rockfort: When did the idea for the channel start taking shape?

JP: Olly Bengough, the director of the channel, thought there was no destination for French cinema in the UK and even in the world. French film is one of the most respected genres in history of cinema, and it’s the number one foreign language cinema. So there was a programming gap to fill and a niche audience to corner with the potential of appealing to a wider range of viewers.
Rockfort: What is your role within CinéMoi?
JP: I’m responsible for the programming and the artistic integrity of the channel. My role is to curate CinéMoi so it’s a celebration of all things French, packaged to communicate glamour, style, quality and entertainment. My role is to bring an interesting program of French films and also to build an iconic brand that is accessible to everyone. That’s why I am also looking for exclusive interviews, documentaries, shorts and clips. CinéMoi must be a cultural experience and not just a movie distribution vehicle.
Rockfort: On what basis do you select films for the channel?
JP: My belief is that French cinema is not a genre in itself but there are different genres in French cinema: that’s what I want to demonstrate. So I choose the films that fit into these genres: drama, thrillers, comedy, classics, etc. Also, every month I select a season focused on a director or an actor (a Jean-Paul Belmondo season for example), or on a theme (Urban, Countryside, Paris, etc). There will be 30 new films every month, and there is a lot to offer. The question is how to present them to the audience.
Rockfort: How easy has it been acquiring films?
JP: It’s a long-term process. I have started by making big deals with a few key French distributors, but I will then extend that to the others in a second phase of acquisition. Programming always involves choosing, and to choose always means making a selection and leaving other things out. But our partners have all been excited about the project and were ready to help: it’s the first and only channel dedicated to French film, so they could see there is a potential here.
Rockfort: Which films are you most pleased about acquiring, and are there any you don’t have yet that you would really like to show on CinéMoi?
JP: I’m very proud of having 14 films by François Truffaut, including two shorts. Most of these films don’t exist on DVD and are rarely shown in the UK, even if they are masterpieces. We’ve also got 18 films by Claude Chabrol and a lot of films by Claude Sautet. For the first time in the UK, there will be a season on Romy Schneider, who was really one of the most talented and beautiful actresses of her generation. She deserves to be known in this country. I’m also very happy to show UK premieres of recent French filmslike ‘99 Francs’, ‘Jacquou le Croquant’, ‘Entre ses mains’, Tabarly (a documentary).
I don’t yet have the films of Jacques Tati or some classics like ‘And God created Woman’. But it’s a question of time: I will do my best to get them by the summer.
Rockfort: What is your target audience for CinéMoi?
JP: All cinema lovers really, more than just the French community. That’s why all the films on CinéMoi are shown in French with English subtitles. I believe that everyone who rents two DVDs a month could be interested in getting CinéMoi instead, and have the possibility of discoverinf 30 new films every month for the same price.
Rockfort: Are you only showing films?
JP: We are also showing a lot of exclusive interviews, this is a big part of the plan to make the channel both accessible and exciting. For example, Vincent Cassel (‘La Haine’, ‘Irreversible’, ‘Mesrine’), who is the patron of the channel, agreed to give us a 50-minute interview last month. We’ve got also interviews with directors such as Arnaud Desplechin (‘A Christmas Tale’, ‘Kings and Queen’), Claude Lelouch (‘A Man and a Woman’, ‘Roman de Gare’) or Laurent Cantet (‘The Class’) which are a real treat for cinema lovers. And we have also interviewed Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Catherine Frot, Gérard Jugnot… The audience will be able to see all of them, and new ones every month.
Rockfort: What are your criteria for judging the channel’s success?
JP: The number of subscribers of course, but mainly it’s the feedback from the audience. The audience is king, its judgment is the most valuable thing. We will never compromise on quality, so I’m not worried.
Rockfort: Have you always been passionate about film?
JP: Always. Thanks to my dad, and thanks to TV. I was watching films for grown ups when I was still a kid. I was 11 when I saw ‘Le Train’ for the first time. It’s a film by Pierre Granier-Deferre, with Romy Schneider and Jean-Louis Trintignant. It’s probably the saddest film in the world, and therefore one of the most beautiful. I cried on that night, and I knew that I loved this thing that we call film. After that, I spent my time in the cinema. And I even curated a cinema for 7 years: the Ciné Lumière in London.
Rockfort: Who are the directors and actors working in France that interest you most at the moment?
JP: Directors: Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Olivier Assayas, Abdelatif Kechiche, Agnès Jaoui, Pascale Ferran.
Actors / Actresses : Vincent Cassel, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Mathieu Amalric, Cécile de France, Romain Duris, Chiara Mastroianni, Ludivine Sagnier, Jamel Debbouze
There are many more I could mention.
Rockfort: What makes French cinema unique?

JP: Its diversity, and that has always been the case. The diversity of genres: from big comedies like ‘Bienvenue ches les Ch’tis’ to intimate dramas like ‘35 Rhums’, the latest film by Claire Denis. The diversity of auteurs: directors who have made a film every two years for the last 50 years like Claude Chabrol (and his latest one is coming out in France at the end of February) and directors who made one jewel of a film in their career like Helène Angel with ‘Skin of Man, Heart of Beast’. The diversity of actors, from Arletty and Jean Gabin to Marion Cotillard and Jamel Debbouze, through the New Wave and the beauty of Brigitte Bardot, French actors have always been stars. Really, they are the ones who make French cinema unique, because we love them.

Interview by David McKenna