Cahiers du Cinéma, the influential French film magazine founded in 1951, is undergoing dramatic changes that have cast its future into doubt. As reported on Thursday by Agence France Presse, Cahiers’ entire editorial board of 15 staffers have resigned en masse following a recent sale that landed the publication in the hands of shareholders that the staff said, in a statement, “create a conflict of interest for a critical publication.”
In their statement, staffers also alleged that the individuals that make up the consortium of shareholders want to soften Cahiers reviews into a more accessible read. “Whatever articles are published, there would be a suspicion of interference…Les Cahiers has always been engaged, taking clear positions.” In its monthly issues published by Phaidon Press, Cahiers is known for its often academic and critical pieces, and its idiosyncratic, contrarian, and occasionally arcane 10 best lists.
French newspaper Le Monde revealed further details about the mass exodus of Cahiers staffers, telling of new ownership led by bankers, businessmen, and eight film producers. “In the 1950s, the magazine was founded to wage war on French cinema,” said Jean-Philippe Tessé, deputy editor, and journalist at Cahiers for 17 years. “The new owners want to make it a ‘chic’ and ‘cordial’ review, it’s an absolute nonsense.” According to Le Monde, the new shareholders claim they haven’t instructed staffers to alter their editorial vision. “The editorial staff must write what they want on cinema. It is out of the question to guide your choices,” said Eric Lenoir, new manager of the company and also general manager of a street furniture company called Seri, in the Le Monde report.
Cahiers du Cinéma was founded in 1951 by theorist André Bazin, director/author Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, and author Joseph-Marie Lo Duca. In its halcyon days, Cahiers employed such cinema giants as Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, and Claude Chabrol, who divided their time between breaking the boundaries of movie-making at that time, and writing about that very process. Éric Rohmer served as editor after 1957 and through 1963, at which point fellow filmmaker Jacques Rivette took over. Recent writers have included André Téchiné, Léos Carax, and Olivier Assayas. The publication’s main competition remains the monthly Positif, edited by veteran critic Michel Ciment, who has worked there for decades.
The announcement arrives during a fractious time for film in France and on the heels of another mass resignation — the César Awards’ entire board of directors, which called for a complete overhaul of the organization amid backlash to the Roman Polanski-led 2020 nominees.