French presence at Berlin fest

Odor of 'Rose' flavors entire fest schedule

So, did Unifrance spike Dieter Kosslick’s drink on his last trip to Paris?

From tonight’s Edith Piaf biopic opener “La Vie En Rose,” right through to Gallic helmer Francois Ozon’s English-lingo closer “Angel,” there’s no missing the 34 French or partly-French titles across all sections of the line-up.

France has two more pics in competish: Jacques Rivette’s “Don’t Touch the Ax” and Andre Techine’s “The Witnesses”; five Panorama titles including Pascale Ferran’s Gallic take on “Lady Chatterley” and the docu “Lagerfeld Confidential”; two films in the newly renamed “Generation” kids’ section, “Je m’appelle Elizabeth” and the animated pic “U”; and another four titles in the Forum section — not to mention a few shorts.

Upping French chances of a prize or two on closing weekend are four more Competition-selected Gallic co- productions, the Joseph Fiennes Denis Haysbert starrer “Goodbye Bafana,” the Franco-Argentine-German “El Otro,” “Irina Palm, “another Franco-German offering by Sam Gabarski, and the South Korean-Franco-Mongolian “Desert Dream,” by Zhang Lu.

However much Unifrance may have wooed Kosslick, the strong French presence is also a sign of Gallic influence in the wider film scene.

“The films selected this year show the diversity and richness of French cinema,” says the promotional org’s managing director Marc Piton “and its openness to the rest of the world. 2007 is a strong year for us.”

That’s a proposition Berlin attendees will have plenty of opportunity to judge for themselves over the next week and a half.

It also remains to be seen how many Gallic pics nab prizes.

In the past few years French films haven’t taken home much in the way of kudos, with helmers including Eric Rohmer, Cedric Kahn, Robert Guediguian and Techine, here two years ago with “Changing Times,” going away empty-handed. Claude Chabrol suffered the same fate last year.

This go round the Gauls will be heavily rooting for Marion Cottillard, who acts her socks off in the opener as Piaf, playing the legendary chanteuse from her career beginnings to her death as a prematurely aged 47-year-old.

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