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Montreal: Good for Gauls

'Tar Angel,' 'Amelie' to open, close festival

MONTREAL — The 25th anniversary edition of the Montreal World Film Festival is book-ended by a couple of high-profile French-language pics, one from Quebec, the other from France. The choice of opening and closing films gives a clear indication of the Canuck fest’s strong point — pics in the language of Godard.

The festival opened Aug. 23 with the world preem of “Tar Angel” (L’ange de Goudron), the second feature from Montreal helmer Denis Chouinard, and will close Sept. 3 with the North American preem of hot Gallic hit “Amelie From Montmartre.”

There has not been much of an industry presence at Montreal in recent years and it is no longer seen as a fest well suited to launching pics across North America. But it is ideally placed to aid the release of pics in French Canada, which is why it continues to attract a strong selection of significant films from Quebec and Gaul.

Last year, the most-talked-about Canuck pic at the Montreal festival was director Denis Villeneuve’s arty, aquatic-themed “Maelstrom” and distributor Alliance Atlantis successfully used a competition slot to help turn it into a solid hit in Quebec.

“Montreal is very popular with the public,” says Patrice Theroux, president of motion picture distribution at Alliance Atlantis. “There is less industry (than the rival Toronto festival) but we still like to premiere movies there, like ‘L’Ange de Goudron.'”

In Montreal this year, we have four movies in competition, so it’s an extremely important festival for us. Montreal is a great launch pad for Quebec movies. It gives them great visibility.”

“Tar Angel,” which is a story of Algerian emigrants in Montreal, stars Gallic thesp Zinedine Soualem (“Chacun Cherche Son Chat”) and is produced by Max Films, which also backed “Maelstrom.” The other French Canadian pics in competitionare helmer Catherine Martin’s 19th-century drama “Marriages” and first-time feature director Francis Leclerc’s “Une Jeune Fille a la Fenetre,” a tale that takes place in 1920s Quebec.

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