Mini-French festival makes a play for sufferingSpanish market
Laurent Cantet’s Return to Ithaca, Benoît Jacquot Three Hearts and French Women will feature in ¡Tu Cita con el Cine Francés!, a new Madrid/ Barcelona/Seville mini-festival launched by Gallic promotion org UniFrance.
Fest plays at Madrid’s Cine Ideal over Oct.16-19, with related events in Barcelona. Paris- ased exhibition/international sales group MK2, which has just acquired Cinesur, Andalusia’s biggest, 11-plex, cinema theater loop, will stage a gala screening in Seville Friday Oct. 17 of Serial (Bad) Weddings. France’s biggest local hit to date of 2014, with an around €73.2 million ($96.2 million) hometurf B.O.
A Contracorriente Films handles the Spanish release; star Christian Clavier will attend Tu Cita in Madrid, where Weddings opens the Festival; Philippe de Chauveron, its director, will be on hand in Seville.
Titles were announced at a traditional UniFrance San Sebastián cocktail. They suggest a telling contrast: As Hollywood’s studios focus evermore on emerging markets, Gallic promotion org UniFrance is making a determined play for one of Europe’s most crisis- ammered territories: Spain.
“It is good to work a market and support distributors and exhibitors when they’re going through a difficult time,” UniFrance president Jean-Paul Salomé told Variety this summer.
Cita underscores the breadth of current French production. Many of the seven titles selected also are femme-targeting, a demography not always served by Spanish films.
The latest film by Cannes Palme d’Or winner Laurent Cantet (The Class), Ithaca chronicled a reunion of old friends on a roof-top terrace in Havana. An early competition hit at Venice, with Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni and Benoit Poelvoorde (Coco Before Channel) , lovetriangle tale Three Hearts was for the U.S. by Cohen Media Group.
Sold by TF1 Intl., ensemble femme comedy French Women, helmed by and starring Audrey Dana (Welcome), also toplines Vanessa Paradis, Geraldine Nakache, Sylvie Testud and Isabelle Adjani.
Other Cita titles include the Wild Bunch-sold The Price of Fame, from Xavier Beauvois (Of Gods and Men), which Variety called a “beguiling blend of social realism and Chaplin- eferencing whimsy,” and femme drama Au fil d’Arianne from Robert Guediguian, starring his regular muse, Ariane Ascaride.
Also among Cita titles: Serge Bozon’s noirish comedy-thriller Tip Top adapts U.K. novelist Bill James, starring a manic Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Kiberlain as rival police inspectors investigating an informant’s murder. It won a special mention from the SACD jury at Cannes Directors’ Fortnight.
Films’ directors and actors will take part in post-screening Q & As. Cita titles all have Spanish distributors – Three Hearts, Ithaca and Price are all on Golem’s distribution slate- and bow in the upcoming season.
“We also wanted to work more with MK2 and Cinesur. Audiences in Andalusia don’t watch so many French movies,” said Isabelle Giordano, UniFrance managing director.
Also, she added, UniFrance wanted to highlight the diversity of French cinema. That breadth part explains why France has been such a formidable festival force this year, Salomé has suggested.
Also most French cinema suggests, in multiple iterations, artistic ambition. “We try to go abroad with good movies which have ideas and a certain idea of cinema, this is our strength, and the French touch,” Giordano said.
More French productions – eight – play San Sebastian’s main competition – than Spanish movies (six). More than 20 films at San Sebastian are majority French productions; 50 French films a year on average bow in Spanish theaters.
Some, well distributed, make boffo figures, or at least over-perform. The Intouchables, distributed by A Contracorriente Films, grossed €16.5 million ($21.7 million) in Spain, Francois Ozon’s In the House, a San Sebastián Golden Seashell winner, $2.1 million. john hopewell