Underscoring the breadth of artistic aspirations driving many of today’s European directors, Guillaume Canet’s “Blood Ties” is one of three English-language films helmed by a Euro director playing in Cannes’ official selection.
A different animal from the likes of Louis Leterrier and Pierre Morel, 40-year-old thesp-turned-helmer Guillaume Canet didn’t jump into English-language filmmaking to work on bigger-budgeted, studio-backed mainstream pics when offered the opportunity, after 2006 Hollywood calling card, “Tell No One.”
And yet, Canet, like other ambitious helmers of his generation, always longed to make an English-language film outside France: Simply because it opens up a far wider gamut of artistic possibilities, with cast and stories.
Produced outside the studio system by Canet’s ally Alain Attal at Paris-based Les Productions du Tresor, the $25 million “Blood Ties” centers on the relationship between two brothers in New York. From its visual and narrative style, to its soundtrack of American standards including Led Zeppelin, Lee Moses and Janis Joplin, pic plays like an homage to Hollywood New Wave classics.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of American movies from that period, like Jerry Schatzberg, all the first Scorsese movies, Francis Ford Coppola. And I wanted to make a film set in that period in New York, like ‘Mean Streets’ or ‘The Panic in Needle Park,’ ” Canet told Variety.
Speaking of American inspirations, Canet’s followup to “Blood Ties” could well be “Dust to Dust,” one of the of projects he’s developing with Attal. “Dust” centers on the real story of U.S. narcotics bureau officer John Cusack. “Cusack had been dispatched to lead an investigation in Marseilles aimed at dismantling a massive drug ring, and he was abruptly pulled off the case and ordered to move back to the States,” Canet said.
Project is co-penned by Canet and Cedric Anger (“The Counsel”) and would lense in French and English. Cusack’s character would be played by an American thesp, he said.
“For the most part, French auteurs are turning to English-language filmmaking for casting reasons, because they want to work with certain actors,” says Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval, who co-financed and sells “Blood Ties” outside the U.S., which is repped by Christopher Woodrow’s Worldview Ent.
For Canet, lensing in English opens up a new world of talent.
Like his previous film, French B.O. hit “Little White Lies,” “Blood Ties” is anchored by an ensemble cast, including Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Marion Cotillard and James Caan. Considering its tight budget, securing such a cast involved the use of backend — rare in Gaul.
In the case of “Blood Ties”’s English-language shoot artistic aspiration coincides with new economic realities of the indie biz. French broadcaster funding is contracting. Films tend to hit or miss radically at Gaul’s box office: More and more, producers, hand in hand with their talent, are exploring the wider possibilities of the international market.
“When you make a film in French, the playground is France, Belgium, Canada, and arthouse circuits. Making a film in the U.S. with British and/or American actors, the playground is the world,” Attal said.
The volume of U.S. projects being shopped in Cannes underscores the changing indie film landscape in the U.S., energized by new private equity players. In Europe, few funding channels are growing. So meshing European and U.S. financing in increasingly attractive.
About 65% of “Blood Ties” finance was French, Attal said. Completion finance came via a New York tax credit and co-financing from Worldview, he added.
As far as “Blood Ties’” international appeal, Wild Bunch’s roster of foregn pre-sales speaks for itself: Save the U.S., Spain and Italy, the pic has pre-sold worldwide.
Although a film with a French helmer and lead producer, it’s perceived as an American pic by buyers, per Maraval.
“Blood Ties”’s screening today will show if Canet and Attal have made an artistic virtue out of a building necessity: English-language filmmaking.