Films include Depardieu feature, spy comedy

BERLIN — Underscoring its confidence in higher-end French filmmaking, France’s UGC has unveiled a new three-pic production slate budgeted at a total $50 million, including a Gerard Depardieu comedy, and the directorial debut of the screenwriters of “Welcome to the Sticks.”

All are being sold internationally by UGC, which also handles domestic distribution; pics follow Andre Techine’s “The Girl on the Train,” with Catherine Deneuve, which UGC world preems at Berlin Friday.

Like “Girl,” which cost E7 million ($9.1 million), the trio are French films tapping “A” national list talent, playing off France’s still-resilient theatrical market, and hope to penetrate markets abroad, given the diminishing lineup of other higher-end Euro fare. A big-budget ($15.4 million) comedy in the line of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” fact-based “Dumas,” set in 1848, toplines Depardieu as Gallic novelist Alexandre Dumas.

Benoit Poelvoorde (“Asterix at the Olympic Games”) plays his put-upon researcher and ghostwriter Auguste Maquet, who begins to rebel at his ignominy.

Safy Nebbou (“Mark of an Angel”) directs for UGC and France 2 Cinema from a screenplay co-written with Gilles Taurand, adapting Cyril Gely and Eric Rouquette’s theater play “Signe Dumas.”

A second UGC production, “Imogene,” a $21.8 million spy comedy based on a TV series, with Catherine Frot (“The Dinner Game”) and Lambert Wilson (“Sahara”), is helmed by debutant directors Alexandre Charlot and Franck Magnier, who co-wrote “Sticks.”

Yves Marmion at UGC YM produces. Principal photography starts April 15.

“A lot of French comedies, good ones, have travelled, Francis Weber’s (comedies) work even in tough territories such as Japan,” said UGC producer Said Bensaid, who added he’d pre-sold comic Western “Lucky Luke,” which he’s produced for UGC, to some territories without a screenplay.

Also set up at UGC YM, $12.8 million psychological tragicomedy “A Spot of Bother,” by Alfred Lot (“Melody’s Smile”), toplining Michel Blanc and Miou Miou in an adaptation by Blanc of Brit Mark Haddon’s novel of the same title.

“The Girl on the Train” is produced by Bensaid for SBS Films, which has a production deal with UGC.

Based on real-life events, which raised a media storm in France, “Train” turns on an out-of-work mother, Jeanne, who invents an atrocious lie to befriend a now-famous attorney she knew in her youth.

Emilie Dequenne, who won best actress at Cannes for the Dardennes brothers “Rosetta,” plays Jeanne.

“A mixture of realism and lyrical fantasy, ‘Train’ is Techine’s most audacious movie ever. And it gives a sense of where our world is drifting,” said Bensaid.

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