Annaud looks for answers

Director's 'Minor' flops in France

PARIS — Jean-Jacques Annaud’s unusual new film “His Majesty Minor,” a mythological comedy set on an island in the Aegean several thousand years B.C, has turned into a major box office flop in his native Gaul.

Despite a wide release on 500 screens, and a publicity blitz by distrib Studio Canal, the pic garnered a staggeringly small $858,000 in its first frame.

Annaud’s reaction last week was to shoot the messenger, blaming Gallic crix for the thorough pan they gave his first French language film in more than a decade.

“Minor” was co-scripted by the late Gerard Brach, the co-author of several hit Annaud titles, and stars Jose Garcia as a man who lives with pigs, with Vincent Cassel as a satyr.

“I think the public was enthusiastic about my film, but they were put off by the hostile campaign against it,” the helmer bemoaned in an interview on Studio Canal parent company Canal Plus’ flagship news show. “I had not expected such jubilatory destructiveness.”

Studio Canal also has reason to lick its wounds, as it invested more than E11 million ($15.6 million) on its first project with Annaud.

As well as handling the film’s French theatrical release, the Canal Plus subsid also took international distribution on the pic, and is believed to have put up at least a third of the film’s $42.5 million budget.

A handful of territories including Belgium, Switzerland, and Eastern Europe and Russia boarded the project early, paying top dollar for the film based on Annaud’s name, but apart from Spain — where the film was shot and co-produced by Mediapro and will be distributed by Warners — other major European territory deals have yet to materialize. Ditto for the U.S.

Studio Canal’s new international sales topper, Harold Van Lier, recently arrived from Summit, will have his work cut out for him in trying to sell the pic at the AFM.

But perhaps the film’s Gallic box office nosedive wasn’t entirely the critics’ fault, Annaud conceded in last week’s interview with Canal Plus’ Michel Denisot. It was also the public’s.

People today “no longer have the curiosity to try something new, the way they used to in the 1980s,” the director said.