French press review 16 December 2015

There's talk in today's papers of last weekend's regional elections and of what the various parties should and will actually do to address voter disenchantment. There's also mention of a rise in ordinary Islamist crime. But the front pages are dominated by the arrival of the latest episode of the Star Wars saga in national cinemas.


Both centrist Le Monde and communist L'Humanité continue to rake over the embers of last weekend's French regional elections.

Centrist Le Monde says President François Hollande intends to make no fundamental changes, despite the unflattering result for his Socialist party. The emphasis will continue to be on fighting terrorism and getting France back to work.

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L'Humanité is angry, saying the latest promises fall far short of the response required by voter disenchantment.

Right-wing Le Figaro looks at the huge rise in what the paper calls "ordinary Islamist crime" in France since the Charlie Hebdo killings last January.

Six hundred and fifty cases have been brought to court in  10 months for crimes such as promoting terrorism, with two-thirds of the accused going on to serve prison sentences.

Le Figaro says these statistics are good news for Islamist recruiters and further proof of the deep division at the heart of French society.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

No press review would be complete this Wednesday without a mention of the latest episode of the Star Wars saga, launched by George Lucas 39 years ago, and still going strong with film seven due in French cinemas this very morning.

You have to admire the cleverness of the Hollywood publicity people, who have the media from Los Angeles to Novosibirsk all dancing to the same tune.

Even Catholic paper La Croix gets in on the act, giving the top of its front page to the new film, seeing Star Wars as a family myth which offers a certain stability in a rapidly changing world.

Le Figaro poses the front-page question "Is the film worth seeing?" with the small print offering a strongly positive response, saying that this seventh episode has recaptured the epic sweep of the original films and has rejuvenated the saga.

Libération is sufficiently seduced to give the film front-page honours, finding it a melancholic reflection on oedipal territory, which will probably worry the studio bosses back in Hollywood. "Melancholic" is not strong box office, and "oedipal" sounds dangerously Freudian.

Le Monde decided not to send a journalist to the special press preview of the new film because the paper considered the various conditions imposed by Disney, the Mickey Mouse operation which now owns George Lucas, too stringent.

Journalists wishing to attend had to promise to reveal nothing about the plot, nor about the relations between certain characters, not just to their readers, not even to their mothers, boyfriends or taxidermists. Which will certainly limit intimate conversation and could leave the resulting articles short and somewhat lacking in substance.

Le Monde says this unprecedented exercise in censorship by the company that gave us Snow White and the Seven Stormtroopers is to be explained by the extreme nervousness of the Disney shareholders, who had to fork out four billion euros to buy George Lucas and are hoping for galactic returns from this very expensive film. They don't want some two-bit journalist spoiling the whole show.

I did not attend the Paris preview and did not sign any confidentiality agreement, so I can, in complete legality, tell you that Harrison Ford is in the new film and that it takes place in outer space and off the west coast of Ireland.

Ford has arguably the best line in the film when another character asks him if he's the real Han Solo (the part he created nearly four decades ago) and he replies, "Yes, or at least what's left of him."

If you're wondering what happens, they all die in the end. Like the rest of us.

Have a nice day.

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