‘Capital,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Dead,’ ‘Babysitting’ Stand Out

‘The Last Diamond’ and ‘Marie’s Story’ among other notable titles at the 16th UniFrance Rendez-vous

PARIS – Bac Films’ “Human Capital,” Pathe’s “Quantum Love,” Films Distribution’s “Playing Dead” and Other Angle’s “Babysitting” looked like potential sales standouts at the 16th UniFrance-Rendez-vous of French Cinema.

A clutch of other movies – led by pre-sales on Indie Sales’ “Marie’s Story” and negotiations on Other Angle’s Berenice Bejo-starrer “The Last Diamond” – were also sparking business at the Rendez-vous – a mart which tends to lay the groundwork for future sales rather than see multiple deals go down in a frenetic feeding frenzy- as the Rendez-vous closed its doors Monday. It will re-open Friday with a press junket that runs through to Jan. 20.

One of the most talked-about titles at this year’s RDV, and a Lake Como-set road accident drama with social overtones, “Human Capital” was set for a Monday afternoon Rendez-vous second screening in response to buyer demand. Belgium has sold and Switzerland – the other traditional first-phase sales territory for French films – is under negotiation, said Bac Films’ sales head Gilles Sousa. Parts of Eastern Europe are also in talks, he added.

Italian Paulo Virzi (“The First Beautiful Thing”) helms in Italian with an Italian-French cast: Fabrizio Bentivoglio, Valeria Bruni Tedeshi and Valeria Golino. Indiana Production and RAI Cinema produce. France’s Manny Films, Bac’s associate production house, co-produces; and Paris-based Backup Films’ B Media Export Sofica investment fund co-finances.

Helmed by France’s Lisa Azuelos (“LOL: Laughing Out Loud”), “Quantum Love,” looked set to close Germany – with the U.S., France’s biggest overseas national market –  by Monday evening, per Pathe Intl.’s Muriel Sauzay.

“It has Sophie Marceau, Francois Cluzet, is a romantic comedy, set in a Paris with glamour and Marceau gets better and better over the years, like a good wine,” Sauzay added, saying there were offers/interest from Australia and other territories.

Nearest to a comedy standout for some buyers who caught it, Jean-Paul Salome’s “Playing Dead” has Francois Damiens as an anal, ego-bloated actor refusing to die when he plays murder victims in crime reconstructions.

“It’s smart, black-humored witty and well-directed, well made, really enjoyable. If there was one comedy I thought could travel, it would be this one,” enthused  Jakub Duszynski, at Poland’s Gutek Film.

Playing at the Rome Festival, “Dead” sold at the UniFrance RDV to Austria’s Thim, Brazil’s Tucano, Axia for Canada and to Hungary. Bolero Films has acquired Italian rights, said Films Distribution’s Nicolas Brigaud-Robert.

Helmed by Philippe Lacheau et Nicolas Benhamou, “Babysitting,” a comedy about a child-care gig from hell, sold six territories at the RDV, with at least another half-dozen under negotiation.

“Ever year, since we started our company in 2008, we have had one surprise hit which has gone on to sell 10-15 territories: This is the one,” said Other Angle founder Olivier Albou.

Playing at a packed screening Friday, Eric Barbier’s “Rififi”-ish “The Last Diamond,” with Bejo, will shortly close several major European territories, Albou added.

Directed by Jean-Pierre Ameris (“Romantic Anonymous”), period drama “Marie’s Story,” now in post-production, is under negotiation for multiple territories, said Indie Sales Nicholas Eschbach.

In further deals, Pyramide Intl. has sold Julie Bertucelli’s French classroom docu-feature “School of Babel” to the U.K., Benelux and Switzerland, distributors to be announced shortly.

Among other titles, two films which have pretty-well sold out – Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent,“ which only has Spain, Greece and parts of Asia to close, and Fred Cavaye’s “Mea Culpa” – heavily sold with just Italy and the U.K. outstanding – were judged among the strongest films at the market.

Rendez-vous opener “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart,” the Kinology-sold “Volcano,” Elle Driver’s “The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles,” and Films Distribution’s “Not My Type” all also sparked buyers interest.

Screenings of comedies – and at least 24 played in Paris – were often packed, led by Rezo’s “Best in Bed.”

There was no obvious “The Intouchables” at this year’s Rendez-vous said one distributor. But, he added, a “The Intouchables” may come once every seven years.

That said, “France makes elegant, luminous, amiable comedies capable of attracting foreign audiences,” said Adolfo Blanco at Contracorriente Films, Spain’s “The Intouchables” distributor. The challenge: Star-driven, comedies are “colonized” to a large extent by American cinema, he added.

The Rendez-vous market unspooled at a time of near unprecedented concern for the French industry, at least in recent times, after a decade of seemingly healthy build.

French box office was 5% down to Euros1.2 million ($1.6 billion) in 2013, as French films marker share dived from 2012’s 40% to 33%. Tickets sold outside France for French films looks to come in around 50 million, down from a average of 69.3 million average annual admissions abroad since early last decade.

Meanwhile, a 2013 Collective Convention has hiked labor costs on shoots.

“There have been less films produced in 2013 due to the anticipation of the Collective Convention, a stronger risk aversion from traditional French backers and a weaker appetite for films from the French TV networks, as opposed to TV series,” said Backup Media partner Joel Thibout. “Above all, a lot of ambitious productions originally set to be produced in 2013 have been delayed, as French financiers have been very concerned about the production costs and profitability of French films,” he added.

That said, the strength and resilience of the French film industry and its promotion events cannot be underestimated.

There was no French blockbuster abroad last year. But 66 French titles wracked up over 100,000 admissions in overseas markets.

“French cinema is an international brand like French fashion is a brand. Most independent distributors around the world have at least one French film in their distribution slate, and we’re all looking for more,” said Frank Mannion, at the U.K.’s Swipe Films.

And nobody questions the UniFrance Paris Rendezvous with French Cinema. Au contraire.

“The Rendez-vous ia a guilty pleasure. When everybody has the January blues and are bankrupt from Christmas, we are treated to three-or-four nights in Paris with a stellar line-up of diverse French films,” said Frank Mannion, at the U.K.’s Swipe Films.

“We also get to meet in a much more relaxed fashion all the key French sale agents, and discover what’s on their slate for Cannes and beyond. It’s a great reconnaissance mission and a good catch-up festival for buyers who did n0t catch, say, the Mathieu Amalric comedy “Love Is A Perfect Crime” at Toronto.

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