I’m whacking together a poster for the Australian Society for French Studies conference. It’s in Brisbane, which makes for an easy trip. I promised a poster with maps of my usual interests – box office hits and prestige/award winners – that would reveal…something….about French cinema between 1976, the first year of the Césars, and 2013.

Here’s the top 36 French films at the French box office (a list that has to go way way down the all-time top 100, not just because of American and British films, but also because of pre-1976 French films)

France box office 1976-2012 Then there’s the Cesar-winner for best film:

France Cesars 1976-2012A third category is the film the French send to the Oscars as the official French candidate for Best Foreign Language Film:

France Oscars 1976-2012The Oscars people don’t always pick a French film to include in the nominees. Here are the narrative locations of the French entries that weren’t, in the end, one of the final nominees:

France Oscars not nominatedFinally, a more or less continent-level look (excepting Australia-New Zealand and Antarctica, with no French films set there) at all the other narrative locations in French films from all four categories:

France Africa France Asia France N:SAmFor my money the most interesting phenomenon is in the huge empty space across France.

big emptyThe combined population of Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Centre, Bourgogne, Alsace (that’s where I stuck 8 Femmes, which is “in the country”), Lorraine, Franche-Comté, Poitou-Charentes, and Corse is more than a quarter of France. One-third of the French regions – forty percent of the land – and a quarter of the population doesn’t appear in any film. And the only time Normandy appears in is a WWII movie, not for a contemporary-set film.

In addition, overseas regions don’t appear at all – no French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, or Réunion – nor do any overseas collectives (French Polynesia, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Wallis and Fortuna).

To bring Hollywood in as a comparison – large chunks of the US certainly do not appear in films (the Dakotas, Vermont, and Rhode Island are especially rare) but the less-populated areas aren’t as rare as in French movies – thanks mostly to westerns, which include wagon trail films that cross the prairies. Hollywood has a similar empty-blind spot when it comes to Africa and South America.

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