The Paris court of appeals Wednesday upheld its decision to blockJean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very Long Engagement from benefiting from French subsidies.

The film was stripped of itsFrench status in an original decision dating back to November last year. Atissue is the financial structure of production company 2003 Productions, set upby Warner Bros. France president Francis Boespflug. 2003 has contended it is anentirely French company while the Independent Producers Union (SPI) and theIndependent Producers Association (API) insist the company is controlled byWarner Bros. in the US. The court has concurred with the two agencies.

Warner Bros. France issued a terse press release at the news. Thecompany said it was "profoundly disappointed by the aminority shareholder in 2003 Productions and consequently an investor in Frenchcinema, Warner Bros can do no more than express its consternation at andincomprehension of the decision."

The release went on: "The consequences of this decision must beevaluated attentively by Warner Bros. France as well as the implications of thedecision on Warner Bros. France's policy of investment and support of Frenchproductions and of the French film industry."

Warner Bros. France has distributed such local hits as LaVerite Si Je Mens 2, Chouchou and Malabar Princess. The press release's wording appears asa warning to the API and SPI that the company will temper its involvement inFrench film in the future.

Interestingly, France's culture minister Renaud Donnedieu deVabres has called for opening the cushy CNC benefits to non-European companiesspurred on by 2003 Productions' difficulties with the Jeunet film. A committeeis currently examining the options.

France's National Cinema Center (CNC), which grants subsidies tofilms which qualify as European and French via a points system, appealed theoriginal court decision on Long Engagement in November and a further appeal is still possible beforethe state council. Jeunet's film is made up of entirely French elements.

A decision on another 2003 Productions film, L'Ex Femme De MaVie, will be handed downlater this summer.

In a separatematter, Agence France Presse reports that claims were dropped by theTechnicians and Production Workers Union which sought to reverse the Frenchstatus of Luc Besson's 1997 film The Fifth Element. The film's status will thus stayintact.