Los Angeles’ annual accent on French cinema, the City of Lights, City of Angels film festival, will kick off an eight-day run of new Gallic pics with the North American premiere of “It Happened in Saint-Tropez,” starring leading French talents Eric Elmosnino (who won a Cesar for his leading role in “Gainsbourg”) and Kad Merad (“Welcome to the Sticks”) as a pair of misfit brothers.
Like nearly all the selections in the 38-film lineup, which runs April 15-22, Daniele Thompson’s crowd-pleasing comedy represents a side of French filmmaking that Americans seldom see — namely, the highly polished, populist laffers, chillers and melodramas that represent the blockbusters of the French film business, as opposed to the auteur pics that find niche release in the U.S.
Among Colcoa’s other Los Angeles premieres are “Jappeloup,” written by and starring Guillaume Canet (“Tell No One”) as the equestrian show-jumping champ; “Le Grand Soir,” the latest anarchic comedy from “Aaltra” directors Gustave de Kervern and Benoît Delépine, who won a special jury prize at Cannes last year; and “Therese Desqueyroux,” the final film from late French master Claude Miller, starring Audrey Tautou.
Now in its 17th edition, Colcoa’s lineup expands each year, debuting films to a West Coast audience made up of Francophiles and industry mavens searching for new French talent. “The diversity of French cinema remains very appealing to an international audience, and we are proud to offer the biggest and most exclusive program ever, including, for the first time, a new series that highlights the French film industry’s support of world cinema,” said festival executive producer and artistic director Francois Truffart.
France’s leading role as a co-producer in pics shot outside its borders can be seen in such films as “Hidden Beauties,” from Tunisian helmer Nouri Bouzid; a road-movie comedy called “Welcome to Argentina,” in which French siblings take Buenos Aires by storm; Franco-Swedish helmer Anne Novion’s “Rendezvous in Kiruna”; and “The Attack,” an adaptation of Yasmina Khadra’s tough-hitting novel, about a Tel Aviv doctor who discovers his wife may be responsible for the suicide-bomb victims flooding his clinic.
More typically French titles include upcoming the new Francois Ozon thriller “In the House,” Gerard Depardieu starrer “The Man Who Laughs,” breakout local farce “What’s in a Name” and a pair of Weinstein Company releases, “Populaire” and “Haute Cuisine,” as well as still-feisty 90-year-old Alain Resnais’ “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” (Colcoa will also unveil a newly restored print of Resnais’ con-man classic “Stavisky,” starring Jean-Paul Belmondo.)
Mixed in with all the preems are a handful of panels, filmmaker Q&As and classic screenings, including a special “carte blanche” programming slot, in which Wes Anderson was invited to select a favorite French film to screen. The “Moonrise Kingdom” director chose Louis Malle’s “The Fire Within,” adapted from the same Pierre Drieu La Rochelle novel that recently inspired the arthouse hit “Oslo, August 31st.”