Social issue, a meeting of course devoted to the reopening of places of culture, Wednesday 19 May. Professionals and the public have been waiting for this moment for weeks and months. Wednesday, cinemas, theaters, museums reopen their doors to us. We discuss this reopening with the sociologist Jean Viard.
News i: Is there a French specificity that explains our haste? We have a real need for culture?
Jean Viard: We are not the only ones. And then, let’s be honest, this week there will be more people in the shops than in the theaters. So I think we need to get our life back, and the civilization of free time, I would say. You know, the terraces of bars, restaurants. This is the idea of the city. Basically, a certain idea of this city where there are at the same time people who go to the theater, people who pass in front of the theater, who are happy because it is open, because culture is not only those who go there. There are others, there are restaurants, there are tourists. Tourists, we’re going to wait a bit longer, but let’s say it’s city life.
So of course, the first thing is that the artists are happy and they have suffered a lot. Now, look, we’ve made a lot of films, we’ve written a lot of books. It is especially the living theater that has been extremely private. And then, there are obviously the audiences, who will restart slowly because in my opinion, their first request is to go to a restaurant, but afterwards, they will go to the cinema. In culture, of course. And then there is the city, the urban atmosphere. Culture often for me is: “we could do it” …
The cinemas, there are a lot of people who go there anyway, it is also the sharing of the cinema, unlike the platforms that have been used a lot since the start of this health crisis?
Yes, it’s the question of what to get out of: get out of your home, walk in the street, alone or accompanied. And then we enter a room, we watch a movie together. A cinema is not like watching the movie at home. First, it’s much bigger. We are small compared to the screen, whereas in front of a TV, we are the ones who are taller than the TV. If you want, we dominate the TV while the room is not that at all. We are taken by the sound. We are taken by the image. We enter the film in a certain way.
And then, we do not do it alone, even if we often hope that the neighbors are silent, but we are happy that they are there. It is a very curious activity. Besides, we often go out with knowing smiles. We rarely speak to each other. So, it is a joint activity. There is a sharing. And then there is this domination of the screen, which is obviously very large. So we get into the film, but basically, for a while, we live a life other than our personal life. I believe that it is this play between one’s own life and the life that is on the screen, which creates the passion for the place and the moment.
We love the culture. We may also like to admire the stars who make the culture. There is also a love-hate side. We remember the Caesar ceremony which was used a lot to talk about the problems affecting the cultural world during this pandemic. There have been quite a few hostile reactions. Are these criticisms that are not legitimate?
It depends on how they are made. I hadn’t really liked the Caesar ceremony. We must be honest, since we are talking about it, it is not the world of culture that has suffered the most during this pandemic. Of course he suffered, but the intermittents had their unemployment, it is not the end of the world, but it exists. And then there are all the public theaters, museums and all that which is also about culture. We sold a lot of books, but afterwards, it’s true that the fact that artists complain is also true. It is legitimate. But like lots of other industries.
All the people who are used to being on a stage have suffered, whether it is the bartender, the restaurant man, the theater man, the cinema owner or the cinema technician. We must not forget, moreover, the technicians, who are very important people in this profession, whom we see less, but who also suffered for lack of having nothing to do and feeling useless. There you have it, I think we have to pay tribute to them.
Afterwards, I think it’s also a dream world. And it’s true that I think we must also leave this dimension of dreaming and creation, of unpredictability. You see, that’s the interest. This is to say that tomorrow is not predictable. We do not know. You go into a room, you have an artist, you don’t know exactly what he’s going to do. This is extraordinary.