Catherine Frot, Olivier Gourmet also star in new Memento Films Intl. title

PARIS – A European cast many directors would die for – Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Frot and Olivier Gourmet – will star in “The Midwife” (“La Sage Femme”), directed by Martin Provost, produced by France’s Curiosa Films and sold by Memento Films International.

MFI will introduce “The Midwife,” now in pre-production, to buyers at this week’s UniFrance Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, where it is likely to be seen as one of the highest-profile and most attractive of new arthouse projects coming on to the market.

France 3 Cinema and Belgium’s Versus (“The Nun,” “Our Children”) co-produce.

Written by Provost, who won seven Cesar Awards for “Seraphine” including best picture, actress and screenplay, “The Midwife” turns on Claire (Frot), a tremendously gifted traditional midwife who one day receives out of the blue a phone call from Beatrice (Deneuve), her father’s ex-mistress who disappeared from her life 30 years ago, saying she has something important to tell her.

Working with some of the world’s greatest directors – Roman Polanski, Luis Buñuel, François Truffaut, Jacques Demy – in a career which stretches back to 1957, Deneuve has snagged an Oscar nomination (“Indochine), shared a Berlin Silver Bear for outstanding artistic achievement (“8 Women”) and won an honorary Cannes Palme d’Or.

Frot won a supporting actress Cesar for Cedric Klapisch’s “Family Resemblances,” and burst through to larger prominence with her lead role in Xavier Giannoli’s “Marguerite” last year.

A Cannes best actor winner for Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s 2002 “The Son,” frequent Dardenne actor, Gourmet was also seen in Provost’s 2013 “Violette.”

“We were deeply touched by this portrait of one of the most beautiful professions in the world. The film is a tribute to life but it is also the beautiful story of two singular and strong women. A rare and fine script with a powerful cast that will attract a lot of attention among the buyers,” said Tanja Meissner, Memento Films’ head of international sales & acquisitions,

Provost wrote the screenplay with the three actors in mind and sent it to them when finished. They accepted right away, he said.

“The Midwife” will shoot from late March, Provost told Variety recognizing that his screenplay at least turned on birth, re-birth and transmission, “the measure in which the midwife transmits something to a baby that is born, something which is beyond technology.”

He added: “I also want to show the emotional link between a mother giving birth, and the midwife. I know that now because I’ve spoken with many midwives – that link is very important.”

Beatrice transmits to Claire her capacity for emotional rebirth, Provost added.

A tribute to the figure of the midwife – Provost’s life was saved as a newly born baby by the midwife who delivered him giving him a transfusion of her own blood – “The Midwife” will shoot in Paris and Mantes la Jolie, an outlying district to the west of Paris, with housing projects and social problems. “Claire has a strong sense of duty and is committed to her work in a maternity hospital facing imminent closure. To alleviate the pressure, she tends her own vegetable garden where she grows carrots and potatoes in the same way she brings babies to life,” Provost said.

Turning on troubled writer Violette Leduc’s relationship with Simone de Beauvoir, “Violette,” Provost’s latest film, sold widely and was well received at Toronto, Variety declaring that “Emmanuelle Devos triumphs in this sharply observed yet sympathetic biopic of a trailblazing feminist author.”

Indeed, Provost’s films to date are often distinguished by the performances of lead actresses playing characters who rebel against reigning social practices. Claire and Beatrice in “The Midwife’s” are, in very different ways, two such people.

“The Midwife” is scheduled for delivery February 2017.

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