Pathe unveils lineup, bets on ’36’

Barratier's latest, Vanier's 'Wolf' on tap

After a strong year at the French box office that wasn’t matched by foreign sales, Gallic major Pathe has gone on the international offensive.

Company has unveiled a lineup of more exportable fare by Gallic filmmakers, led by “Les Choristes” helmer Christophe Barratier’s “Faubourg 36.”

Barratier’s 28 million euros comedy-with-music, set in 1930s Paris,  and Nicolas Vanier’s 12 million euros Lapland-set “Wolf” are the newest titles on a slate that also includes the latest pics from Sylvain Chomet, Jacques Perrin and Jan Kounen. 

Pathe did boffo biz on home turf last year with “Camping,” French cinema’s No. 2 at the box office. But that film, and other local fare, did not have hoards of foreign distribbers reaching for their checkbooks. 

It’s shaping up to be different this year.

Change coincides with a management restructure. 

In October distribution head Olivier Granier ankled and production topper Richard Pezet and assistant managing director Marc Lacan were upped to take over joint responsibility for distribution.  

In Berlin, Pathe  is pitching “Faubourg,” and “Wolf” to co-producers.  

“We are talking to potential partners in Germany and Japan,” Christine Hayet, Pathe’s international sales topper said.

“Faubourg” follows three lowly stage hands who get infected by the revolutionary spirit that brought France’s Popular Front to power in 1935.

Gerard Jugnot, Clovis Cornillac and Kad Merad play the three men. Barratier is poised to pick the female lead from a shortlist of five unknown actresses.

For his sophomore effort, co-written with Julien Rappeneau, Barratier has teamed with Clint Eastwood’s cinematographer Tom Stern. Jean Rabasse, set designer for “Delicatessen” and “Vatel,” will re-create Paris in the 1930s — probably in Romania or the Czech Republic.

“I thought Stern wouldn’t be interested in a French film, then I discovered he’s married to a French woman and has a house in Toulouse. We sealed the deal over glasses of Armagnac at his house,” Barratier said.

The film is being produced by shingle Galatee and Pathe.

Script was penned around a series of original music-hall style songs written to accompany a stage play that never got made. The helmer told Gallic songwriters Frank Thomas and Reinhardt Wagner that he’d like to turn the project into a film instead.

Although the film has a political backdrop, Barratier said it it has more in common with “Brassed Off” or “The Full Monty” than with Ken Loach.

Company also hopes to secure an Italian co-production deal on the widely sold E80 million laffer “Asterix 3,” due for a January 2008 release in France. 

Meanwhile, Perrin is still traveling the world filming the E40 million “Oceans,” a fictional follow-up to “Winged Migration.” Next stop will be the Arctic this summer, Hayet said.

Long-time Pathe associate Jake Eberts is handling U.S. sales on the two latter films, as well as producing “The Illusionist” and “Whatever Lola Wants,” Nabil Ayouch’s English-language debut.

Cannes watchers are also keeping their eye on the oddly-titled “The Grain and the Fish.” Pic, produced by Claude Berri, is a follow-up to “L’Esquive,” the first film by then-unknown helmer Abdellatif Kechiche that took top honors at France’s 2005 Cesar awards.

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