Buyers powwow at Rendez-Vous

French Cinema mart packs a soft punch in Paris

PARIS — Buyers at last week’s 10th Rendez-Vous With French Cinema managed to tear themselves away from the opulent Grand Hotel long enough to check out France’s latest crop of projects.

At the four-day mart (Jan. 11-14), they hunkered down with the latest projects, screenings and screeners from continental Europe’s strongest film export industry.

This year’s edition wasn’t a classic. But buyers appreciated the Rendez-Vous for its timing as well as its accommodations.

“The screenings are a great way to start off the New Year, setting up dealmaking at Rotterdam and Berlin,” says Mark Adams at Blighty’s ICA Films.

“The Rendez-Vous takes pressure off Berlin. You can pickup screenplays and close on them at Berlin,” echoes Enrique Gonzalez Kuhn, at Spain’s Alta Films.

By the end of the mart, buzz had built on a clutch of movies.

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Among the big budget projects, buyers liked Jean-Paul Salome’s action-adventure “Female Agents” — “a ‘Dirty Dozen’ with girls,” in one buyer’s words — about a five-woman commando unit parachuted into France in World War II.

“Agents” has sold a bevy of territories, including Benelux (Cineart) and the U.K. (Revolver). Major territory deals are under negotiations, says TF1 Intl.’s Nicolas Eschbach.

Pathe’s “99 Francs,” an anti-advertising drama from Jan Kounen (“Blueberry”), was praised as immensely stylish.

Buyers warmed to two Sundance-bound titles, both from Celluloid Dreams: Dennis Gansel’s “The Wave,” about a high school political experiment that goes violently awry, and “Fear(s) of the Dark,” six edgy creepy-crawly horror tales, all using black and white animation, with a memorable early entry from Charles Burns. Of projects, one major buzz title, from Films Distribution, was Anne Fontaine’s Audrey Tautou starrer “Coco Before Chanel,” about the making of Coco Chanel as a personality and legend, with major territory pre-sales and multi-territory partnerships under way.

On Wild Bunch projects, some major territory negotiations have begun, which may well close before Berlin, on Jerome Salle’s big budget “Largo Winch,” about a maverick ladykiller, adventurer and rebel billionaire. Upbeat reactions and sales talks were also sparked by 17 minutes of excerpts from Arnaud Desplechin’s French star-studded “A Christmas Tale,” says Wild Bunch exec Gael Nouaille.

Set in a dreamlike fantasy world of chunks of ruined buildings and grassy puffball planets, Futurikon’s toon feature “Dragon Hunters,” also drew positive reactions. Buyers also responded to smaller titles including “Dante 01,” from “Delicatessen” co-helmer Marc Caro, a left-field addition to the “Alien” canon; “The Killer,” a reportedly original hitman psychological thriller from first-timer Cedric Anger; SND’s “The Key,” which is ratcheting up sales; and Marco Carmel’s “Comme ton pere,” a tender and funny family drama about Tunisian Jewish emigres in the underworld of early ’70s Paris.