Toronto Daily 2012: French Cinema

As Harvey Weinstein recently put it on the heels of “The Artist’s” Oscar wins, France may be about to have a golden age of cinema.

In terms of international sales, the Gallic film sector has proved more than resilient to the financial crisis and today’s contracted markets, though success is measured by an ever-diminishing number of stellar titles. At Cannes, Studiocanal, Wild Bunch, Pathe and Gaumont led the pack, announcing hundreds of deals across their slates. Year on year, international sales figures during the first half of 2012 for Gaumont and EuropaCorp skyrocketed 52.7% to €18.7 million ($23 million) and 112% to $92.2 million, respectively. Meanwhile, the breakout performance of such reasonably budgeted, crossover French fare as “The Artist” and “The Intouchables” has clearly boosted the image of Gallic cinema abroad.

“I noted at Cannes that buyers were on the hunt for strong, script-driven European material,” says Gaumont sales head Cecile Gaget, citing deals on Anne Fontaine’s “Two Mothers,” Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “The Young and Prodigious Spivet” and Guillaume Canet starrer “En solitaire.” “Companies like Momentum or Alliance that traditionally buy mostly American films were checking out French and European films again, buying ‘Spivet’ and Francois Ozon’s ‘In the House’ (sold by Wild Bunch), for instance,” he adds.

Over at Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, international sales topper Marie-Laure Montironi agrees. “Distributors read every script and watch everything to avoid missing the next gem,” she says, noting increased interest for remakes and romantic comedies, such as Frederic Beigbeder’s “Love Last Three Years,” a local sleeper sold in key territories.

“What’s changed is that mainstream, feel-good French films are taken more seriously by buyers as films that have a strong theatrical potential, and that’s key to distributors because theatrical is holding up best, in contrast to DVD and TV,” says SND sales and acquisition topper Lionel Uzan, pointing to Sophie Lellouche’s romantic comedy “Paris-Manhattan,” one of SND’s best-selling titles, and ’60s-set comedy “The Women on the Sixth Floor,” an overseas B.O. success.

According to Uzan, “The investment/profit ratio on an upscale French film is more appealing than on American movies: If your film bombs, it doesn’t hurt your finances as much because you paid less for it, and if you score, you win big.” (Budgeted at $11.8 million, “The Intouchables” grossed more than $362 million worldwide.)

Another key trend that’s positively impacting Gallic shingles is the development of multi-territory VOD platforms such as Netflix, Lovefilm and iTunes, bulwarked by the proliferation of day-and-date models outside the U.S. Even without theatrical distribution, “It allows distributors to build a single multi-platform marketing campaign and maximize P&A, facilitating films’ screen access,” says Regine Hatchondo, managing director of Gallic film promotion org Unifrance.

She adds that the biggest handicap for foreign-language offerings is the decline of arthouse theaters around the world, notably in Germany, Italy, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Japan.

“Even in territories like Japan, where VOD is in its infancy, video publishers and distribs operating VOD platforms like Happinet are growing and have been working hand-in-hand with arthouse distributors. They’re often the ones facilitating deals,” says Nicolas Brigaud-Robert at Films Distribution, which has Marina Zenovich’s docu “Polanski: Odd Man Out” at Toronto.

“In the U.S., we find opportunities for straight VOD sales on French films, which wasn’t the case before,” says Montironi, noting that the rise of VOD and multi-territory platforms in the U.K. and South Korea have benefited EuropaCorp.

Most VOD deals are all-rights pacts. But some French sales agents can split rights on select titles.

At Studiocanal, distribution head Harold Van Lier, who sells such high-profile pics as “The Two Faces of January,” says the shingle has increasingly been considering splitting rights in territories that offer attractive subscription-based VOD/TV deals or opportunities to make VOD deals directly with local platforms — “particularly in growing markets, like Brazil/Latin America and China, where an all-rights (minimum guarantee) does not represent the territory’s real value.”

In 2011, Studiocanal struck lucrative deals with Amazon-Lovefilm for the U.K. and Germany.

Gaget points out on-demand services have brought substantial incremental revenues to companies like Gaumont or Studiocanal which handle large catalogs. “We’ve done tons of business with Russian TV on catalog titles,” he says.

While many international markets remain challenging, France is making promising headway.

Films repped by French sales companies at Toronto

GALA PRESENTIONS

Free Angela & AllPolitical Prisoners
Shola Lynch (U.S./France) Sales: Elle Driver
Docu about radical activist Angela Davis

Love, Marilyn
Liz Garbus (U.S.)
Sales: Studiocanal
An intimate look at the personal life of Marilyn Monroe

Twice Born
Sergio Castellitto (Italy/Spain)
Sales: Wild Bunch
Pic centers on a romance set against the backdrop of the siege of Sarajevo.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

Antiviral
Brandon Cronenberg (Canada)
Sales: TF1 Intl.
A vision of a dystopian future where celebrity obsession has gone to sick extremes

The Attack
Ziad Doueiri (Lebanon, France, Qatar,Egypt, Belgium)
Sales: Wild Bunch
Israeli-Palestinian surgeon discovers that his wife was involved in a suicide-bomb attack.

Capital
Costa-Gavras (France)
Sales: Elle Driver
A tale of intrigue and high finance

The Deep
Baltasar Kormakur (Iceland/Norway) Sales: Bac Films
The sole survivor of a shipwreck becomes national hero.

Do Not Disturb
Yvan Attal (France)
Sales: TF1 Intl.
Two straight guys decide to make a gay sex film.

Dormant Beauty
Marco Bellocchio (Italy, France)
Sales: Celluloid Dreams
Woman in a vegetative state is the focus of a struggle between rival factions.

A Few Hours of Spring
Stephane Brize (France)
Sales: Rezo
A man is faced with his mother’s decision that she wants to die with dignity.

Foxfire
Laurent Cantet (France/Canada)
Sales: Memento Films Intl.
Adaptation of a novel about a girl gang in the 1950s

Greetings from Tim Buckley
Dan Algrant (U.S.)
Sales: Celluloid Dreams
Musician struggles to find peace as he sets out to pay tribute to his father.

In the House
Francois Ozon (France)
Sales: Wild Bunch
A student’s essays start to blur the lines between reality and fiction.

The Last Supper
Lu Chuan (China)
Sales: Wild Bunch
Historical epic about the fall of the Qin Dynasty

Laurence Anyways
Xavier Dolan (Canada/France)
Sales: MK2
A young bohemian couple’s relationship is rocked by a revelation.

Lines of Wellington
Valeria Sarmiento (Portugal/France)
Sales: Alfama Films
French troops invade Portugal in 1810.

Lore
Cate Shortland (Australia/U.K./Germany)
Sales: Memento Films Intl.
A German girl must lead her siblings on a gruelling trek.

No
Pablo Larrain (Chile/U.S.)
Sales: Funny Balloons
An ad exec in 1988 Chile is recruited to craft the political opposition’s publicity campaign.

On the Road
Walter Salles (France/Brazil)
Sales: MK2
Adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel

Passion
Brian De Palma (France/Germany)
Sales: SBS Prods., Wild Bunch
Erotic thriller about two femme biz rivals

Rhino Season
Bahman Ghobadi (Iraq/Turkey)
Sales: Wild Bunch
Love story spanning three decades

Rust & Bone
Jacques Audiard
(France/Belgium)
Sales: Celluloid Dreams
Cannes screener limns gritty love story.

Spring Breakers
Harmony Korine (U.S.)
Sales: Kinology
Four co-eds’ spring fling turns into a booze, drug and violence-fueled bacchanal.

The Suicide Shop
Patrice Leconte (France/Belgium/Canada)
Sales: Wild Bunch
Toon tuner about a family faced with a dreadful dilemma.

Therese Desqueyroux
Claude Miller (France)
Sales: TF1 Intl.
A provincial housewife in 1920s France finds her suffocating marriage too much to bear.

War Witch
Kim Nguyen (Canada)
Sales: Films Distribution
Portrait of a child soldier

White Elephant
Pablo Trapero (Argentina/Spain)
Sales: Wild Bunch
Two priests contend with drug lords, corrupt cops and their own demons.

Zaytoun
Eran Riklis (U.K./Israel/France)
Sales: Pathe Intl.
Israeli pilot shot down over Lebanon must make his way home.

CONTEMPORARYWORLD CINEMA

3
Pablo Stoll Ward (Uruguay/Germany/Argentina)
Sales: Wide
Man tries to insinuate himself into the lives of his ex-wife and daughter.

After the Battle
Yousry Nasrallah (Egypt/France)
Sales: MK2
The lives of a Egyptian revolutionary and a pro-Mubarak horseman collide.

Children of Sarajevo
Aida Begic (Bosnia-Herzegovina/Germany/France/Turkey)
Sales: Pyramide Intl.
A girl struggles to keep her brother on the right side of the tracks.

Clandestine Childhood
Benjamin Avila (Argentina/Spain/Brazil)
Sales: Pyramide Intl.
A boy is forced to live under an assumed identity to protect his resistance-fighter parents.

Dead Europe
Tony Krawitz (Australia)
Sales: Wild Bunch
A Greek-Australian photographer uncovers a shocking family secret when he travels to Greece.

Him, Here, After
Asoka Handagama (Sri Lanka)
Sales: Heliotrope Films
Former Tamil rebel faces hostility when he returns to his community after the war.

Kinshasa Kids
Marc-Henri Wajnberg (Belgium/France)
Sales: MK2
Congolese street kids decide to form a rap group.

Museum Hours
Jem Cohen (Austria/U.S.)
Sales: MPM Film
A museum guard and a visiting out-of-towner find refuge in life, art and each other.

Once Upon a Time Was I,Veronica
Marcelo Gomes (Brazil/France)
Sales: Urban Distribution Intl.
A medical student, who has just graduated, seeks meaning to life in bodily pleasures.

Paradise: Love
Ulrich Seidl (Austria/Germany/France)
Pic explores the politically charged issue of sex tourism in Kenya.

The Patience Stone
Atiq Rahimi (Afghanistan/France)
Sales: Le Pacte
A woman in a wartorn Middle Eastern country delivers an emotional monologue to her comatose husband.

Three Worlds
Catherine Corsini (France)
Sales: Pyramide Intl.
The aftermath of a hit-and-run accident becomes a compelling study in contrasts.

Zabana!
Said Ould-Khelifa (Algeria)
Sales: Wide
An account of the life of Algerian freedom fighter Ahmed Zabana

MIDNIGHT MADNESS

No One Lives
Ryuhei Kitamura (U.S.)
Sales: Pathe Intl.
Bandits find that their latest victims are far less helpless than they seem.

TIFF DOCS

As If We Were Catching a Cobra
Hala Alabdalla (Syria)Sales. Wide
Portrait of Syrian artists fighting for freedom and justice

Far Out Isn’t Far Enough:The Tomi Ungerer Story
Brad Bernstein (U.S.)
Sales: Le Pacte
Portrait of author and illustrator Tomi Ungerer

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out
Marina Zenovich (U.S.)
Pic raises questions about legal manipulation, media distortion and power politics.

List compiled by Leo Barraclough

Filed Under:

Want Entertainment News First? Sign up for Variety Alerts and Newsletters!
Post A Comment 0