Gaul’s players: The new generation

New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema 2012

From breakout artist to Oscar nominee, it has been a wild ride recently for the Argentinean-born Bejo. She had a small part in Brian Helgeland’s “A Knight’s Tale” early in her career but really started making a name for herself with a role in the stylish spy spoof “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” directed by her husband, Michel Hazanavicius, and co-starring Jean Dujardin in the title role. The trio reunited for “The Artist,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

Fresh-faced thesp Berges-Frisbey, of French and Catalan origins, has had a banner year, appearing not only in the titular lead in the Daniel Auteuil-directed period drama “The Well-Digger’s Daughter,” but also co-starring alongside Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush in Rob Marshall’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” in which she played the seductive mermaid Syrena. Next up is Spanish-lingo pic “El sexo de los angeles” from helmer Xavier Villaverde.

A self-taught filmmaker who allegedly made his first feature for 150 ($200), Haitian-born, French-based Carrenard wrote, directed, produced, edited, shot and also did the sound for “Donoma,” a gritty but hopeful tale of love in the Paris housing projects that won the prestigious Louis Delluc Prize for first feature, decided on by a jury chaired by Cannes topper Gilles Jacob. Carrenard is at work on his second feature, “Faire l’amour.”

Directorial duos consisting of two brothers are common, but sister writers-helmers Delphine and Muriel Coulin are a rarity. Delphine is also a novelist, while Muriel has a background in documentaries. For their feature debut, “17 Girls,” about a pregnancy pact at a school in a seaside village, they filmed not only in their place of birth but decided to keep things even more familial, hiring their parents as assistants on the film.

A frequent presence on French screens of late, thesp Duvauchelle played the dashing love interest in “The Well-Digger’s Daughter”; a Parisian Child Protection Unit cop in Maiwenn’s contempo drama “Polisse”; and a mysterious man with a gift for photography in the recent hit dramedy “On Air.” He started acting in 1999 and has starred in three films of fest fave Claire Denis, including “Beau Travail” and the recent “White Material,” in which he played Isabelle Huppert’s son.

With his roles in 2011 Cannes titles “Polisse” and “Declaration of War,” the latter directed by his ex-partner, Valerie Donzelli, and inspired by their own experiences with their gravely ill young son, Elkaim has decidedly graduated to more mature roles. He was also heavily involved in the screenplay and music of “War,” roles he will again reprise for Donzelli’s latest project, the musical “Hand in Hand.”

The 2012 French Shooting Star at the Berlin Film Festival, Haenel got her first break at age 13 in Christophe Ruggia’s “The Devils.” Her turn in lesbian drama “Water Lilies” also earned her praise, and she starred in no fewer than three Cannes-selected films last year: “Iris in Bloom” and “Heat Wave,” both Directors’ Fortnight selections, and Bertrand Bonello’s bordello-set costume drama “House of Pleasures,” which played in competition. She can next be seen in Sylvie Verheyde’s “Confession of a Child of the Century.”

Joeystarr (real name: Didier Morville) became famous in the 1990s as part of the bad-boy French rap group NTM. His work in Maiwenn’s 2009 film “All About Actresses” first got him noticed as a serious thesp, while his role as a tough cop with a heart of gold in “Polisse,” also by Maiwenn, earned him further positive notices. His lighter side was on display this year in romantic dramedy “Love Lasts Three Years,” in which he was effectively cast against type.

Unlike the duo of their smash comedy hit “The Intouchables,” Nakache and Toledano, who’ve been making movies together since the ’90s, are so like-minded that they finish each other’s jokes. Like “The Intouchables,” their previous three films — “Je prefere qu’on reste amis,” “Those Happy Days” and “So Happy Together” — are well-paced, polished dramedies with social undertones and satirical humor. “We’re interested in comedies that have a meaning and reflect our times, like the Italian movies of the ’60s and ’70s directed by Dino Risi or Ettore Scola,” says Nakache. Adds Toledano: “We feel we’ve succeeded if we’ve made people laugh about super-serious subjects.”

The 2011 local success story of French cinema was without a doubt “The Intouchables,” and as the lesser-known headliner next to established star Francois Cluzet (“Tell No One”), thesp Sy stands to benefit most from the runaway hit. With a background in standup comedy, Sy has slowly been making a name for himself as a comedic actor. His casting in “The Intouchables” was not exactly a surprise, since he has worked with helmers Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache on their two previous laffers.

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Gaul pics have fun, will travel