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Colcoa: French-Language Showcase Reflects Recent Gallic Cinema

That annual L.A. rite of spring known as the City of Lights, City of Angels (April 21-28) is back for its 18th year with a lineup of French-language films that just might eclipse all previous editions. Colcoa exec producer and artistic director Francois Truffart calls it the biggest program ever, both in terms of quality and quantity.

Of the record 61 features and shorts in the mix, vs. last year’s 57, this batch mixes established directors like Claude Lelouch (whose “We Love You, You Bastard” opens the fest), Catherine Breillat, Diane Kurys, Cedric Klapisch and Francois Ozon with such first-time feature filmmakers Francois-Xavier Vives, Yannick Saillet, David Perrault and Helier Cisterne.

One of Truffart’s bigger coups was securing the West Coast premiere of Paris-based Roman Polanski’s psychological drama “Venus in Fur,” based on the David Ives play that stars Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, opposite Mathieu Amalric. This promises to be another intense chamber piece in the manner of Polanski’s other stage adaptations “Carnage” and “Death and the Maiden.”

It wouldn’t be a festival without some kind of competition, for both narrative features and docs, the jury for which is drawn from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. LAFCA’s Stephen Farber will preside as jury president.

As with past Colcoa affairs, this is a festival that doesn’t dwell too much on solemnity or the kind of arthouse arcana that characterizes New York’s Rendez-Vous With French Cinema during the month prior, although some overlap exists in the programming. This is an event that promotes the full measure of Gallic films, from niche fare to commercial blockbusters, including two of the year’s biggest hits in their native France: Guillaume Gallienne’s “Me, Myself and Mum,” which claimed top prizes at this year’s Cesars, and “Superchondriac,” from France’s version of Jerry Lewis, writer-director-star Dany Boon.

“We try to cover one year of production of films released over the last 12 months,” says Truffart, who adds that a handful of films in the program are opening in France either simultaneously or in close proximity to Colcoa. “And we try not to concentrate on artistic films, but also action films and comedies.”

Like past years, the fest — a magnet for French transplants and Francophiles alike — will draw capacity crowds, with about 20,000 patrons expected over its eight days, most of them showbiz players. At the end of the day, this is a networking opportunity for members of the U.S. and Gallic film industries, with talent scouting and English-language remake rights near the top of the agenda.

“Colcoa is much more necessary than it was before,” Truffart says about the fest’s evolution from the days when the Internet was in its nascent stage and social-media discourse was the lingua franca of the future. “Whereas many people are used to seeing movies online, you need to create to create an event and a buzz in Los Angeles to support the promotion of French film,” he adds.

“And I think we’ve reached our goal to be very connected to the industry and to be useful to the industry.”

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