Industry, gov’t respect for Deauville

DEAUVILLE, France — Opening with “Sleepless in Seattle” and closing shop with Spielberg’s dino epic, Deauville’s 19th annual Festival du Cinema Americain (Sept. 3-13) appears to have finally attained its long-sought level of industry — and political — influence.

Organizers claim the non-competition festival, packaging stars, preems and industryites into casino setting, has found new respectability among politicians following last spring’s change in French government. Change in U.S. government also found U.S. Ambassador Pamela Harriman attending opening night ceremonies for festival, which counts a dozen studio pix and 18 independents.

Festival’s coming of age will most tellingly be demonstrated by expected arrival Saturday of French minister of culture Jacques Toubon.

Toubon’s presence will mark the end of a 13-year festival boycott by culture ministry, which epitomized previous administrations’ anti-U.S. culture stance.

Festival organizer Lionel Chouchan does, however, feel a political squeeze coming from Venice. “I am scandalized,” he says, “and at the same time, it makes me laugh a little to see the attitudes at Venice this year. They’ve always positioned themselves as the festival of the film of the auteur. They’ve been very much a festival to the left and anti-American.

“And this year, to attract the press, they’ve picked American stars, and are showing ‘Jurassic Park.’ It’s a little hypocritical — and a copy of our formula.”

Deauville U.S. coordinatorRuda Dauphin takes similar aim at Venice’s slant, admitting, “There is a problem which comes from a scheduling conflict with Venice — the dates are too close — and we can’t move our dates. They won’t move theirs.”

No problems

But Dauphin says she had no problems securing pictures, stars or majors support, thanks to Deauville’s track record as the fall launchpad into Europe. Besides French “Jurassic Park” preem (which Spielberg will attend Sept. 12), Deauville has had Danny Glover and Matt Dillon in for “Saint of Fort Washington” (Sept. 3), Meg Ryan and Nora Ephron for “Sleepless” (Sept. 4) and expects Tom Cruise and Sydney Pollack in for “The Firm” premiere Sept. 10.

Festival is also hosting homages to John Malkovich, Jessica Lange and veteran helmer Richard Fleischer.

“We had no problems,” Dauphin says, “and were able to obtain all but two of the films we wanted.” (“The Fugitive’s” French release date was just prior to the fest, and Martin Scorsese took “The Age of Innocence” to Venice.)

Word of mouth among early Deauville attendees has produced excellent buzz on Keva Rosenfeld’s “Twenty Bucks,” with Christopher Lloyd, and Nancy Savoca’s “Household Saints.”

Installed for its second year in Deauville’s new Intl. Congress Center, festival shows little sign of the economic woes harassing the French entertainment industry, though Chouchan admits the $ 1 million event experienced a 20% reduction in its budget because “of the economic crisis affecting the region.”

In early rollouts, Deauville’s 18th literary prize was awarded to novelist Sidney Sheldon. Festival’s second annual young scriptwriter prize was awarded to Helene Voilean.

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