Cloudflare TV

Le Internet - Episode #5

Presented by Karl Henrik Smith, Grant Humphreys, Nandini Jayarajan
Originally aired on 

France was the birthplace of cinema, and has made significant contributions to both the art form (style) and roster of movies (substance). But facing a pandemic has put moviegoers and production processes on hold. What does this mean for the future of cinema?

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Transcript (Beta)

Welcome everyone to episode 5 of Le Internet. I am joined by my two co-hosts Nandini, Grant, or my three co-hosts with Grant's little puppy Bao Bao.

So this week marks Cloudflare's 10th birthday and we have a tradition of launching products and services every year during this week but unlike most years we're doing this on Cloudflare's brand new 24-7 live streaming service on Cloudflare TV.

You know there are a lot of really great fireside chats up on this week so if you haven't seen any of them yet I would highly recommend you check them out and as such we kind of found it fitting to dedicate episode 5 to television and specifically to cinema.

You know we'll be talking about the history and the development of cinema since its inception, how it really relates back to to France and then more generally you know how the pandemic has affected cinema going forward as well as make some predictions at the very end on where we think it'll go.

So you know just to kick things off Nandini, Grant, open question to you both.

What are your thoughts or what strikes you about how cinema has developed and where it is today?

That is an interesting question, Carl.

So deep, thank you. I you know I really I don't think I can really speak to like the history of cinema overall but I definitely in like the French context of things I definitely got introduced to French cinema when I was in high school.

My high school French teacher was just like such a cinephile and loved all of it and that's when I got exposed to Gérard Depardieu and the movies Breathless, 400 Blows and to be honest I wasn't like the biggest fan.

Like I can understand the artistic nature of those older films and why they have like such a great impact for for cinema overall and like really like has like France's stamp on it.

Like I don't think you can really talk about the history of cinema without talking about France's influence but I think my personal preference was just that unless I was absolutely forced to watch it because of a school assignment or something like that this the story side of it like it just it just felt like almost like that stream of consciousness.

Like if if Virginia Woolf were to like make a movie it kind of like had that feeling for me.

Yeah and my experience with French cinema I did take college courses during undergrad.

I had a really good teacher Madame Charelle who was very big on showing us the kind of full development of French cinema from the Lumiere brothers all the way up to you know more modern ones like Nikita and some of these other things and when you watch French cinema you definitely have that feeling of it is more of I get more vibes of like it's like more of a play or it's more of like with with camera angles.

There's a lot of cinematography going on to really play the story not just action, not just characters, not just you know certain things that I think American cinema won't.

Another example is like CGI. I think French films were very you know CGI was not something to lean on it was just something to kind of add to the storytelling but yeah I'm a big fan of a lot of the French comics actually.

One of my favorites is Le Chevre which has Jean Despardieu and another guy there's two of them they've done other films like Les Colberts things like that.

It's just that style of humor is really funny and reasons why things like Dinner for Schmucks was remade off of Thierry Nicol.

So not only action movies, not only you know set piece historical dramas but also comedies as well.

French cinema is definitely a big thing and we look forward to just kind of highlighting key differences and France's contribution to cinematography.

Yeah no I'm thrilled you mentioned Dinner for Schmucks because it's kind of first of all like a movie I love and the kind of the American interpretation of it was you know so-so.

But that being said it is kind of part of this broader concept called Cinéma Réalité which is also the title of our episode.

It's only fitting to bring it up which you know refers to a movement back in the 1960s 1970s in France where you know the film industry was forced in a way to pay more attention to natural actions to authentic dialogue.

I think until then there had been kind of a glorification or embellishment in fiction and the filmmaker in Cinéma Réalité can actually participate in front of the camera and make you know artistic choices.

I think that that goes in direct contradiction to direct cinematography in which you're kind of a fly on the wall right.

So you think of today adaptations of American shows like The Office or Parks and Rec these are mockumentaries but they're predicated or they're based on this concept of Cinéma Réalité which is like you're in the movie and at the same time you are viewing it right.

And that was kind of the the foundation of that movement and how it arose in the first place.

Yeah I when I think about French cinema I often think about like this it's kind of like an art a running joke in a sense.

But there's just something about French cinema that is so sad.

It's like they like almost every every movie has to like end with like just heart tragedy.

It's just oh my god. And but it's funny because I remember like was it like 98 or 99 maybe it was like in the early 2000s or so when Amélie came out and the choir came out and all of a sudden like they were getting like there was Amélie at the Academy Awards and then it was the choir the following year and both of them had a lot of recognition and like the U.S.

award journey with like the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards and everything like that.

But I do remember that like actual French people in the culture were just sort of like what is this?

It's too happy. Why? Why? Like is this real?

Come on. But I would say like Amélie is like one of my top favorite movies all time.

And it's and I don't I can't say why. I mean it's so quirky and it's like the colors but like just like how the film was taken and I think at that time was just like really starting to I was starting to explore my joy of French culture and this just this movie just really like celebrates Paris and all the weird oddities that go on with it.

And there's this one scene in there that like every time I watch it it's one of the few DVDs that I still own by the way.

There's this one scene in there where like the the friend Amélie's friend is grilling Matthew Cassidy the the main character with French similes or like sayings and phrases and I still don't it's still like that level of like French language still kind of goes above my head but it was just I don't know it just it just really I just love it so much.

Well Nandini like you said I mean most Americans I would say that watch French cinema say where's the happy ending right is what is that?

I think that French movies especially from the 19 yeah actually I think you're right Carl you know from the 60s 70s on focus on some more thought-provoking endings.

So it's not a hero comes in on his white horse bad guys are gone we're all good not a Disney -esque story.

You know you'll get endings that kind of play towards what real reality is and what okay this happened but this is what these characters are gonna have to do if you get this more complex sense of an ending of well this happened here are the other things that are untied or that are that have been done and they will they will basically have to meet those those consequences.

And there's so many movies that give you examples of that and in a way Amelie is kind of like that where the French like well this is so happy why what is this what is this little little whimsical film here you know we want something more deep thought-provoking we want something like like Jack Hughes or something right or or some of these other you know big films are almost made like not only protest and portray you know a a sort of agenda but also toward the other side.

That is always something when I watch a French film is it's not very campy it's not very good black and white it's it's it's very gray and I personally I like that but if I was looking for a feel -good summer film and there was an option for a French film or even a French director I kind of know that okay it's not going to be all feel-good right.

It's actually kind of I love that you are how you're talking about this because I don't know if anyone like remembers like when when Netflix was maybe like you know like five years ago or so like Netflix was really trying to like like push its international agenda and like really bring in like more countries and more foreign language films onto their platform and in France they were really surprised that France wasn't having as much penetration or as success as you know French cinema does.

Like I believe that like besides the U.S. France is like one of the biggest movie producers and especially like in Europe.

I think while cinema has been going down for like other European countries France is still cinema still thriving in France but it was having a really hard time making an attraction and like on Netflix like like shows that Netflix was putting a lot of money on like Marcella were just not having that stickiness but then that I think they actually started seeing like their first success with some comedies like Le Queer Plan I think it's called the hooked up plan in English and I think that was like actually one of its first really successful shows on the platform because possibly it is happier.

I mean it still makes you uncomfortable here and there just by the nature of like the subject but but something about that happiness or whatever maybe at that I think the show came out like two or three years ago and maybe the rest of the world needs that like happy ending or like at least that lighter fare as like an introduction into like French media.

Yeah yeah I love that I think you know going back to one of the most also hugely famous movie The Untouchables from like 10-15 years ago you know it's successful if there's been a there's been a remake as well but one of the kind of most down-to-earth movies I think that I've that I've seen in my life in which you know this paraplegic man is being cared for and and really about human emotion.

I mean it's not a big budget high budget movie but it really did touch a lot of people's hearts in terms of like the backstory of these two two men and how they came in contact with each other.

Do you think like do you think these kinds of movies the cinema style is being threatened in any way now especially right now when you know we have this pandemic and we can't really be making these I'm not going to call them indie movies but kind of like mid-budget movies.

Are we talking about cuties? Let's maybe not touch on I mean you're welcome to talk about cuties but I'm thinking more just generally that like the notion of cinema is that something that you think is being threatened by by COVID-19 or will we find a way back to it?

I think absolutely I think even before COVID just and this is just my personal experience I did not see a lot of French films into that were made in the early 2000s mid-2000s and even now that have leveraged a lot of CGI and it goes with the word right cinema valentine right where they prefer to do real practical effects.

They would prefer to build you know sets to do things instead of doing all CGI.

Even when they have a movie that's quote-unquote animated like The Adventures of Tintin it was animated in a way to look super super realistic in the background and you know not have as many of these cartoon elements.

So to me I think it has been threatened with as you know CGI and all these other things that you can do kind of does we we don't tell the difference so much between okay it's a CGI explosion versus a French director might say I want a real explosion a la Michael Beck right and COVID I think in particular for these small filmers it's it's you know you can't have these real actors maybe do real scenes you can't have you know there's an article that we've read Carl right where you can't use a real baby for this one TV show because there's issues with COVID and how do you get around that and that I feel like we subconsciously when I see a French movie I expect to see a lot of very practically done real effects I would notice a robotic baby for example or I'd be like oh that's that's that's interesting how you know I don't think it'll disappear I just think like French cinema has proven it's it can do is it just needs to kind of adapt and you know still keep that practicality in there but you know also let in some of these new advances with CGI or you know new advances with more advanced cinema cinematography techniques which right in the beginning they were definitely the innovators all the way from the beginning of okay when people were filming things do you do a front-on shot or do a side one they're like actually I was like actually let's do from a train coming into a station we're going to have a diagonal right so they were kind of there and I think now we're at a perfect point to see post-COVID exactly how some of these newer generation of French directors and filmmakers get back onto the avant-garde leading edge so to speak but yeah I do think right now COVID poses a lot of challenges for them.

Yeah I mean I like with everything pandemic related I in some ways I think on the cultural side of things I think it is affecting the youth even more so than other folks and especially when it comes to cinema in general like if you I mean like even like the movies that I have like named so far like that was like when I was like much younger and like you know just so full of like I must learn stories I must learn life and like I must see what is going on in my life on screen and and like we've been talking French cinema really showcases the intimacy of real life the discomfort the it is kind of like that mirror and like reflection of these small moments that make up a day or a year in everyone's life and the people that I think really appreciate it and amplify these works and and and and make it last in our collective memories are young people and if we're not able to produce and make movies that resonate for them or make any movies at all there is sort of like a black hole of culture for this time period.

Yeah and and I'm I'm fully with you on that Nandini I also think maybe by virtue of the circumstance of you know no one none of these huge big big budget action films uh being produced right now maybe it means that there's going to be more of a focus on the human level you know there might be more families that are shooting um like kind of like low budget films or you have individuals that are all kind of getting tested uh in their own uh like circle of five or six people that are also shooting um shooting movies that are much more you know indie or or original in that way and so that might lead to a whole new um especially with the growth of streaming services uh and bundles as well um you have Disney out there which has agreed to partner with uh Hulu and ESPN plus they're offering kind of all of it together for twelve dollars a month I mean that is a really good deal and at some point they are I mean they have a slate for the next year of really great shows and movies but after then they're going to need something to keep it going and so that's where I think the talent scouting and you know the searching for these kind of low budget films is going to make a comeback um so that's maybe a bit more of an optimistic take but I do think that in the end of the day the the type of film that will be the hardest hit when we do return to normal are kind of the the mid -tier ones in a way I don't know if either of you have seen uh Argo with with Ben Affleck or you know The Town I mean that's the kind of film where you would go to the movie theater um and like you know kind of you you would watch it but it might not be the first one on your list uh I think we're going to have a really like top tier segmentation of an Avengers type type film at the top and then really low budget like prestige releases at the at the other end and then those films in the middle might suffer the most yeah Carl kind of just piggybacking off of that I I think I think mid-level films I really do worry almost almost like how how when this happens to businesses right I actually think that the there'll be more opportunity maybe from like a grassroots level of folks doing like independent films but maybe there's not as much funding and or um other other things that can help like think about how startups with COVID just as a business right and we found you know that the folks that have you know big companies that have large amounts of money that they can rely on or or other um sources of revenue or cash essentially to ride this out they'll take the hit but they can come back what's going to happen to the small independent studios that now it's been a year where they can't really film nor can they push out um you know really good films or projects that were you know either interrupted or were supposed to start now um I worry about that and you know with that shake-up means okay maybe you lose a couple of these um you know studios or animation studios or whatever that close up and then you know you've got now more room uh at the bottom to come up but I I would be very worried about um someone who maybe had a had a documentary in mind and either before or after this happened COVID happened then you can try to produce something and there's a question of well the end product isn't that great because of what we had to do with COVID we couldn't shoot in these places we had to pay extra money to get actors that were willing to be within six feet of each other um I think it's much worse for for smaller players and I hope that the French government or um non-profit um you know institutions can help them and and help kind of cultivate that kind of lost year for those for those small um producers and filmmakers.

I do wonder though maybe I mean I definitely don't want to go into like the the craziness around the movie Cuties or Mignon but I do wonder like if if streaming platforms during the pandemic where we're now more and more people at this point like I've watched everything I think I want to watch and so now I'm like expanding out into other other languages definitely like diving into like the French TVs and movies that I haven't had a chance to see and watch but I I'm kind of wondering like I would never have before the I mean before the pandemic I would never honestly have even heard of the movie Cuties I don't think it would have had such international response if it hadn't been on Netflix and and like and I want and I bet I bet a lot of people that did watch that movie came away with like huh what other French films are there this is so interesting so I kind of wonder if maybe there is an effect and also I think like even like Amazon Prime I think got their first uh French movie on their platform like just in May or something like that there was something that I read I can't remember right now but um I kind of wonder like if all these mid-budget and small budget movies are now being added to these streaming platforms and being discovered by a lot of viewers because like once you watch one then all of a sudden you get more and more recommendations on here potentially like something that might be a driving factor post-COVID for the government for more of these streaming platforms even during COVID is to sign on sign on more of these French artists as on like larger deals and maybe maybe what we're seeing the future of French cinema is is less in the theaters and more being released on just these platforms for us to view at home I'm going to respond to your very complex very nuanced answer with just yes I think 100% they will be seeking more more of these kind of indie filmmakers and technicians and producers and um you know it's just a fact that controversy is uh generates buzz I think regardless of the nature of it you have cuties on the one hand and then you have a totally different issue with Mulan which for the record cost an additional $30 to your average Disney plus subscription but in spite of the boycotts in spite of everything happening with that film I think it overshot expectations globally you know maybe not in China but in the rest of the world Disney had a huge surge in signups as a result of it so you know I think the whole tactic of opening up limited uh limited kind of seating with films and and the whole like the rollout of Tenet is a perfect example of maybe the opposite of success and what you probably should not be striving to do like that is not adapting to the situation we have what is adapting is creating um creating buzz around films that are already big or slated to be big and then from there investing you know five six ten years in the future by especially because you have a lot of young actors and technicians that are hardest hit right now by the pandemic I mean they are they're trying to establish themselves and it's really really difficult even in normal times to get a job uh in that industry so especially right now with everything going on um you know they are the ones who will have to be uh scouted and and and found out and then from then on you know recruited to really kind of focus on the future of film that makes me think too Carl I know you bring that up is what will this do to the next Cesar Awards right how will this affect if we can have a con film festival which films are going to which ones have the opportunity maybe to be recognized and have publicity from the streaming services that more are being presented there right or I'm very curious to see how this continues and my only hope would be that French cinema proves its adaptability right by still continuing to produce thought-provoking film experiences for folks yeah speaking of what have you guys been watching or what have you what have you been watching and what do you want to watch Carl I will I sure I will go first um it's quite odd so I I've been watching um I've been a huge fan of Fargo uh the show not the film although the film is great as well pretty much since the first season came out and uh the new show is out now the fourth season the first couple episodes with Chris Rock and um really great story so far but um the Coen brothers have this kind of long history of doing really dark uh comedy kind of satirical but also grounded in reality in some ways and then in other ways very very mythical and very like you can tell it's fictional um and one of the things I've loved about that show since the first episode is every episode opens up with uh this is a true story all the events depicted occurred but the names have been changed out of respect for the victims and you're like that's not true at all because everything that happens in that show is so ludicrous but it's done in such an effective way and I think the way that they tie in these characters together it's like one of those plays where you have 30 different dangling threads and you're like how are they going to bring it all together at the very end um and that's part of why I really like that show yeah I've been watching uh the americans that was a good one but a recent french movie that I that I saw was um one of special place in my heart um and what I would argue really just grew the the interest of parkour is uh assault at district b13 right or it's just district fake place right and that I that's like my favorite um I would say french action movie but one of my favorite action movies yeah I um I've been uh I'm back at I'm at my parents because I needed a break from isolation and I've literally watched everything I think but um but now I'm like kind of like I am actually like diving back into like the the french language um tv uh and movies and um on my list that I want to watch is portrait of a lady on fire it's on hulu I've heard amazing things about it and I just have been I don't know why I just haven't watched it yet and then there's also this other it looks like a documentary but it is not it's called Les Miserables but not to be confused with the the classic this one is more about uh the suburbs in Paris and it kind of just watching the trailer gives me like lame vibes from the that movie lame like I think it's like the hate something like that um such it looks really good uh and really intense um I yeah that's those are oh and then the criminal um series there's UK Germany and France and I actually really like watching those because you see like really good actors from each of these countries uh basically just doing like these amazing monologues but also you kind of get like an interesting insight into like each country's culture towards what what um crimes they want to focus on so they're not all dead women in and and also um just uh just like how they what their legal systems are and like how they actually approach these different things and each country is like so different and I kind of really I'm really enjoying them yeah the the criminal show is fantastic and 100 vouch for that and I think the UK version is very accurate because the investigators are constantly drinking tea so you know which country you're in um even when they're interrogating you really in a hard way they're um but no can definitely vouch for that um I know we only have about a minute left so I do want to quickly you know just thank you both for for joining and for your time um and then just to think about this one topic which is we've talked about how cinema has been impacted by the pandemic and the development of it over time um but drive -in theaters are something that are something that's actually making a bit of a comeback I think it brings a social element and at the same time you're you know in a way sheltered from from other people and you're sheltered from a potential disease so uh fun little trivia San Francisco was one of the very first cities out there uh to come up with drive -in theaters and I think still today we're trying to bring that back uh so if either of you have the have the chance definitely try it out uh could be could be a fun fun ride no pun intended you would have to have a car to go to the drive-in theater yeah I would assume so I guess I could rent a get-around yeah five five seconds left you guys thank you both for for your time and uh have a great rest of your week bye all thank you so I don't know, I don't know, I don't know