Interview with Julien Planté, artistic director of French film channel Cinémoi


I personally think that the French make some of the best films in the world, they are often sophisticated, nuanced, intelligent and complex, embodying the great artistic visions of directors like Godard, Truffaut, Audiard, Denis, Chabrol, Moll, I could go on. So it was great to meet a man who knows so much about them, having also worked as programmer at the French cinema Cine Lumiere. I met him at a suitably French bistro in Soho to discuss the channel and the state of French cinema amongst other things.

What do you love most about French film?

It’s a tricky question, but I think there is this particularity in French film that the French respect the auteur and before that there is a long history of French cinema. And what is great is that there is an ongoing thing since the first creation of the cinema itself with the Lumière brothers, that’s very particular. And there is the history of cinema itself with the Lumière brothers, that’s very particular. And there is Pathé production before the war  and there is all these great traditions of films. But I think generally I like this particularity in French cinema of giving the final cut to the directors, I think it’s very rare.

Do you think there is a lot more creative freedom in France?

Yeah, I mean I don’t think you should generalise and say that, because you know there is 250 films produced in France every year. But it is a particularity that is very rich and that ‘s why I like French cinema and that’s what I want to show as well on the channel, that French cinema is not a genre in itself , so of course there is commercial films like anywhere. But what I like is the auteur and my favourite directors, most of them are French it’s true. I love Claire Denis, [Arnaud] Desplechin, Agnes Varda, I really love them because they have real vision and because I think their producer respects their views and vision. And like is often the case for a lot of French actors they’ve got the final cut.  It’s what I read David Lynch as well said about the French , they’ve got the final cut. That’s why Lynch himself is produced by the French, by Studio Canal.

I think it’s definitely harder in Britain or in America where they can just totally change the screenplay.

Definitely, because of the finance of the film that’s where the core of the problem lies because  I think at first there was a problem with the BBC I think you couldn’t do anything without them and that’s where all the directors come from like Stephen Frears, Mike Leigh, etc. They all come from television and to finance a film perhaps there is too many barriers for a director.

When did you first get seriously into films and think this what I want to do with my career?

I did have this passion for a long time, like I was really a cinephile  when I was young. Really when I was in France, I’ve been living in London for eight years now so I think it started in France when I was in business school, and really I was a bit lost there and like all the others I didn’t have that many friends. I was spending my days in cinemas, so really I decided that if I had to do business I would do business in film. I ended up in the programmer in London at Cine Lumiere.

How was that?

It was a great experience, that was my school really of cinema. I learned a lot, I met a lot if people, directors, a lot of people in the industry of course, the distributors , the producers. That’s where I was in contact with the audience, that’s very important. To be a programmer is a very fantastic job because you are actually in contact with every part of the chain from the producer to the technician, to the audience, to the artists themselves. I programmed this cinema for seven years and there I hosted a lot of seasons , festivals, retrospectives and not only French  I did a lot of European cinema. I did four editions of the Spanish film festival and Portuguese film festival, Italian retrospective on [Marcello] Mastrionni and the others. So it was great.

So what’s a typical day like for you? Or is it quite untypical?

Really I wish I had the talent of ubiquity, I wish days could be longer like 48 hours would be great. Um, typical day it’s really everything like if I leave my e-mail box I’ve got a lot coming in. But I think because I’m managing Cinemoi, it’s really programming , so yes of course choosing the films, and organising the interviews. It’s really to be in contact with all the distributors and producers to get all the films on the channel. But it’s also on the technical level with Sky satellite with the broadcaster and also to look for a lot of press, promotion, trying to promote the channel at it’s best, and to look for sponsors as well so we can continue.

What’s the best part of the job?

Watching the films I think, and still I tend to that less and less, or anyway it’s something I do in the evening and that’s always the case actually unless it’s press screenings during the day.  That’s the kind of job where you need personal involvement, the passion, so it really mixes into your life. Like film is my passion so I don’t really mind of course, I love that. So yesterday I was at the premiere of an environmental film called Home by Yan-Arthus Bertrand, this photographer who took photos of the earth from the sky. And the film was broadcast and shown everywhere for free in the cinemas, he was here to talk about that and his film. It’s a beautiful film, very scary but anyway that’s the kind of events I like to go in the evening.

Is there anyone in the film industry that you’ve really enjoyed meeting?

When I meet somebody with a vision, for instance I think a true director is an artist in his own right, in his own vision of the world, and I really like to meet the directors and when they are approachable because not all of them are.  When they are approachable and they are keen to share their ideas I like that very much. And of course I had the occasion to meet a few like this week, I met again Agnès Vardas, who is about to release her film Beaches of Agnes, and I love Agnès Vardas. She has a great body of work.  You know she’ s past 80, she’s a tiny little woman but with a great spirit and she was always close to the people. She has a lot of creativity, she’s a real artist like she did a lot of installations in art galleries, at the Serpentine here. She has made documentaries and she has won the golden lion at Venice, she has done so many things. She’s a great lady and I‘ve known her for a long time now.

What is she like to meet in person?

She has her own character. But I have got a full respect for her and she has the right to be anything, because she’s over 80 and you respect that. I think she is very touching actually, each time I meet her I am also a bit moved, because she goes on and her head is always spinning, she has always something in mind artistically. She’s very clever. I think the secret of her cinema is to be close to the people, like she made a documentary about these cleaners, these people who take the waste away  that is thrown away but is still good. You wonder how you can make an interesting documentary out of that but she does, she really does. And she has a lot of humour as well.

Anyone you’d still really like to meet in the film world?

Yes, a lot, I would love to meet Tarantino. There’s a fascination for some actors, I would be impressed with meeting, I don’t know, Brad Pitt [laughs]. But I think I would prefer to meet Martin Scorsese for example. I would love to have a great conversation with him.

You must have been to quite a few film festivals in your job, what is your favourite film festival?

I will always go to Cannes, but everyone talks about Cannes so I’m not going to talk about that. But Clermont-Ferrand, a short film festival  in France, it’s very different from Cannes, and I think it’s very good. Because it’s a different way of appreciating the film, and really what is nice there is that’s we’re really close to the audience, it’s not selective, it’s not full of press and industry people. In Cannes it’s strange sometimes people leave the cinema after 15 minutes. In Clermont-Ferrand, it’s very different because it’s shorts, so like in one screening with 8 shorts you can travel around the world, you can travel with the different energies in the films and different genres of course. And the cinemas are always full, it’s a festival at the beginning of the year it’s always cold outside but there is a great, great, great atmosphere inside.

What are the upcoming films you’ve seen in the festivals that you think are going to be big or that you’re really excited about?

Definitely A Prophet by Jacques Audiard who did Read My Lips and The Beat That My Heart Skipped. It’s a great film, great direction, great acting, brilliant script. I think the most intelligent thing, like in every film, is the script and it’s a story of the world. He starts from the lowest level possible and he starts going into race, so it’s a great story. The young actor in it Tahar [Rahim]was great, so check out for this one. I think there was one revelation here and there will be more.

A Prophet, a film to watch out for.

A Prophet (2009) a film and a star, Tahar Rahim on the left, to watch out for.

Did you meet anyone involved with the film?

I met Jacques Audiard.

What was that like?

Well, that’s the kind of man that is not too much approachable. I think because of the atmosphere of Cannes, because I was there as a journalist to interview him and because it was a filmed interview; he doesn’t like the image of himself, or he doesn’t like to project himself. It’s very rarely he is actually on camera or pictures, so I think there was this aspect. And also in Cannes you’ve got only 10 minutes and then bang, so you don’t have the time to meet properly. But I think he was a bit, you know repeating the same things, it’s like he had to face his success. But c’mon it’s for 2 days.

How do you pick the films for the channel, do you have a criteria or a standard?

No criteria really because I want to show everything from French cinema, from its thrillers to its comedies. So I want to show the diversity. The job as a programmer is not like picking up flowers, because you really have to deal with the distributors, so you have to curate with what is given to you. To start with Cinemoi I didn’t have the freedom to choose all the films from a 100 years of French cinema. But it’s still good because we bought 150 films, I’m very happy because I’ve bought a lot of films by [Jean-Luc] Godard, Bertrand Tavernier, Claude Chabrol, Agnès Varda, Arnaud Desplechin, after it’s a question to put them in place. A way I curate them is to do seasons, every month I try to have a theme. So it can be a season dedicated to an actress or director, like I’ve done a season on Romy Schneider, on Francois Truffaut and the moment is a season on French actresses called Femme Fatale. And later it will be a season on fashion icons and a season on urban, all the films taking place and dealing with the issue of ‘banlieues’, the suburbs. Like great documentaries by Tourdienner and the same director [Jean-Francois Riçhet] who did Mesrine, before this he did some very violent films set in the suburbs one of these is Ma 6 T Va Crack-er (1997) it’s about these kids burning cars. Because we have a tradition of burning cars when we are not happy. It’s a French issue, a social subject that’s important and I don’t mind shaking the English view of France as beautiful regions and the wine. I want to show what’s on the other side of that and it’s a lot of riots, racism, violence. But there will always be a good side, some hope with films like Please Killer or Cous Cous.

Are there any highlights for you coming up on the channel?

Definitely  the interviews I’m doing with Sadie Frost that are on every Sunday at 8pm and they are accessible to all Sky viewers. We interviewed eight actresses including the young actress Vahina Giocante who was in Lilya Says (2004). It was great to interview her in 2009 because maybe she’ll win Cannes in 2012. She’s  a bright, intelligent actress, I think she’s brilliant, we also interviewed the brilliant Charlotte Gainsbourg and Ludivine Sagnier.

Were there any particular films that you’ve  acquired that you consider to be highlights also?

I’d like to highlight the films that would not be possible to see outside the channel, there’s even films that we did the subtitles our self. One film part of femme fatale is a Romy Schneider film called Max et les Ferrailleurs (1971). She was such an icon and beautiful woman, she was a screen siren and she so intense in it. It’s rarely shown here and it’s such a gem. And Godard’s La Mépris (1963)with Brigitte Bardot, it’s one of my favourite films ever and we shall show a documentary on her on the channel.  It’s Bardot’s best performance and I think Godard used Bardot’s voice, that’s her most beautiful thing because she has a very naive innocence and at the same time guilty voice. And Ma 6 T Va Crack-er which wasn’t shown in the UK.

Godard’s La Mépris (1963), the film that used Bardot's sexy persona to it's best advantage .

Godard’s La Mépris (1963), the film that used Bardot's sexy persona to it's best advantage .

What did you think of the successes of films like The Class, La Vie En Rose and Amélie?

They’re very different films, I think Amélie is a postcard of France. I mean I think it’s assumed so I don’t want to be nasty with this film because I think it’s his [Jean-Pierre Jeunet] style and I don’t think it was made in a commercial way. It’s still the work of an auteur and it’s a great story. La Vie En Rose ? Again it’s a bit of  a postcard of France that’s how people imagine France stereotypically.

Like Coco Before Chanel?

Yes, and that’s what people want to see and actually and that’s why it’s working, because people are comforted by it.  The Class though is different, The Class is was successful but not on the same level as Amélie, I think winning Cannes helped it. It’s beautiful , I like the social aspect, it’s important to show that.

It’s made in a very clever way like between documentary and fiction, the direction is brilliant.

Do you think it’s good that people get a different picture of France from the one you get in like Amélie?

Yeah, I’m glad it was widely released and promoted by Cannes and Sean Penn giving the prize. I’m glad when cinema arrives at this point of not only entertaining but also bringing a message.

 For more details about the channel and what’s showing go to



  1. […] from: Interview with Julien Planté, artistic director of French film … Monday, October 5th, 2009 Film Channel TAGS: broadcaster, distributors, technical, […]

  2. […] Interview with Julien Planté, artistic director of French film … | I Film Channel on Interview with Julien Planté, artistic director of French film channel CinémoiOtakore Literantadodist on District 9 (2009), Dir. Neill Blomkamppriscilla85 on AboutValerie on […]

  3. Well its very beautiful article. I really appreciate your work. Good Work

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