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Jean-Marc Levaretto, Fabrice Montebello

The making of a cultural valuation system : les Fiches du Cinéma

Le Temps des médias n°17, Automne 2011, p. 54-63.


Rather neglected by French sociologists and historians, the cinema in France has been mostly explored by specialists of film studies, Reluctant towards the implications of film industry and mass culture, they have usually misjudged the role played by ordinary filmgoers in the history of the art of the film, in the technical and ethical codification of the quality of the films. In France, the organization of the consumers by various associations, movements, institutions and parties (artistic avant-garde, “ciné-clubs”, Parisian circles, confessional and republican leagues, Communist Party, Catholic Church) aiming to shape and direct the film production and consumption according to their own interest, is a very important aspect of the artistic history of the cinema. In this matter, the system of technical identification and moral valuation of all the films released each year on the French territory implemented by the French Catholic Church at the end of the 20s is of peculiar interest. Its instructions (for consumers and theatre managers) have been progressively adapted to fit the various types of theatres, film goings, and local traditions. Most of all, the criteria of valuation has slowly changed with the years, giving much more place to the artistic valuation of the film than to its moral qualification, in accordance with the expectations of consumers more and more experienced. Thus, it is a means to observe the different tools used by the ordinary consumer to anticipate the quality of the films, and the ways this ordinary consumer build his own expertise. The utility of the system invented by the Catholic Church and the cinematic knowledge that it has produced have lead to the creation of a very famous cultural magazine, now completely independent of the Catholic Church, Télérama. Due to its scale and its success, the system implemented by the French Catholic Church is a unique case of film consumerism.

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