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The Discreet Charm of Daniele Thompson’s ‘Saint Tropez’

The French filmmaker has made a name for herself with laffers set among the upper-class

An expert at depicting dysfunctional relationships within Paris’ upper-class, Daniele Thompson could be Woody Allen’s French cousin.

(From the pages of the April 9 issue of Variety.)

Thompson is presenting her fifth comedy, “It Happened in Saint Tropez,” April 15 in Los Angeles as the opening night of Colcoa (the City of Lights, City of Angels film festival). She ventured into filmmaking at age 57, after three decades as a screenwriter with credits including “The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob,” written with her father, helmer Gerard Oury.

She also collaborated with directors on the scripts of such French pics as Patrice Chereau’s “Queen Margot,” which won two prizes at Cannes, and earned an Oscar nom for her work on Jean-Charles Tacchella’s “Cousin, Cousine.”

Her most high-concept comedy, “Saint-Tropez” centers on a dysfunctional Jewish family and two estranged brothers who must reunite for a funeral scheduled the same weekend as a wedding.

“I’m sometimes criticized for embellishing reality and preferring to film beautiful places, and I don’t deny it at all,” Thompson said. “While I do like movies that are tougher and socially engaged like the Dardennes brothers’ or Ken Loach’s films, as a director I enjoy making lighter movies that make people dream, laugh and even cry a little.”

Thompson said she lived in New York for 10 years, and has “an immense admiration for comedy masters like Woody Allen, Frank Capra, Ernst Lubitsch, Sydney Pollack and Mike Nichols, all the way to Judd Apatow.”

Thompson’s pics don’t belong to the breed of French arthouse fare that play at film festivals, but they’re not pure comedy blockbusters either. And yet her films are often the right fit for international distributors looking for a smart Gallic dramedy.

Her four films have traveled in all key territories, including the U.S. Her biggest commercial success so far is “Avenue Montaigne,” starring Cecile de France as an aspiring actress and the late Pollack as an American helmer. The pic was released by ThinkFilm in 2007, and grossed more than $15.5 million in international markets.

Pathe co-produced and distributes “Saint Tropez” in France, and reps the pic in international markets. It has presold the pic to Italy (Made in Italy), CIS (Paradise), Israel (Shani), Portugal (Lusomundo), Brazil (Esfera) and Belgium (Alternative Films), among other territories. Pathe’s international sales topper Muriel Sauzay said U.S. buyers will discover the film at Colcoa.

“America instituted the concept of a universal comedy for the bigscreen, with Sennett, Chaplin and Keaton, and it has always been a respected genre in Hollywood,” explained Francois Truffart, director and programmer of Colcoa. “Since her first collaboration with her father, (Thompson) has become very well known for comedy that has an international audience, and she is able to make people laugh, even with her keen eye for their dramatic scenes.”

While family is a recurrent theme in Thompson’s films, it also plays a big role in her life. Her son, Christopher Thompson, has co-written all of her films, and has starred in three of them. Like his mother and grandfather, Christopher has made the transition into directing, making his helming debut with the 2010 “Bus Palladium.”

Thompson is also teaming with husband-producer Albert Koski on a Broadway-style musical based on the 1980 romance “La Boum.” Thompson, who cowrote the movie with late helmer Claude Pinoteau, is penning the book for the musical; the pic’s original composer, Vladimir Cosma, is onboard to write the music.

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