PARIS –Pathe’s “Daddy or Mommy,” Wild Bunch’s “Do Not Disturb” and The Other Angle’s “Discount” will compete next week for one of Europe’s most valuable non-official crowns: the UniFrance Paris Rendez-vous Most Popular New Comedy.
Also in the running: Gaumont’s “I Kissed a Girl,” Kinology’s “Caprices,” EuropaCorp’s “Bis” and “Buddy Guards,” Studiocanal’s “Chic!”, Versatile’s “A trois, on y va,” “Valentin, Valentin,” from SBS Productions, and TF1.’s Intl.’s “Boomerang.”
Having punched a robust first five-day $3.7 million through Jan. 4, Patrice Leconte’s “Do Not Disturb” opens Paris’ 17th UniFrance Rendez-vous with French Cinema, Europe’s biggest film mart after Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian and Locarno.
Running Jan. 15-19, and screening an announced 86 French movies, 47 market premieres per UniFrance, the Rendez-vous will unveil a score-or-so of new comedies. With RDV buzz helping to galvanize boffo sales and even double –or sometimes triple – digit million-dollar box office abroad (see box below), that’s no idle fact.
“Do Not Disturb” weighs in as a comedy of frustration, toplining Clavier, star of “Serial (Bad) Weddings” and a top Gallic marquee comedy draw, as a jazz buff who stumbles on a 1958 first edition vinyl LP of the legendary “Me, Myself and I.” The title is hardly coincidence: As Clavier’s resorts to desperately egotistic antics to listen to his record in peace, “Disturb” deepens into a satire of the engagingly monstrous self-preoccupation and capacity for disavowal of France’s well-heeled grand bourgeoisie.
High-concept family fare, “Daddy or Mommy” stars Marina Fois (“Polisse”) and Laurent Lafitte (“On the Other Side of the Tracks”) as a couple getting a divorce, both with the career breaks of their lives, so battling not to have custody of their children. Pathé releases wide in France Feb. 4, in the same early Feb berth as Dany Boon’s “Nothing to Declare,” which grossed it around $62 million in France.
Another high-concept comedy, “I Kissed a Girl” stars Pio Marmai as a 34-year-old gay man about to marry his longtime partner who unexpectedly falls in love with a woman. Pic marks Maxime Govare and Noemie Saglio’s feature debut.
Slated by Pyramide for an April 29 French release, the Kinology-sold love triangle romcom “Caprices,” features the acting talents of its director, Emmanuel Mouret, plus one of France’s fastest-rising young stars, Anais Demoustier (“Bird People,” “The New Girlfriend”) and Belgium’s Virginie Efira, a knock-out in two breakout laffers – “Second Chance,” and “It Boy.” The romcom is sparking good buzz as a smart comedy in an Eric Rohmer vein.
Fruit of a production alliance between vet comedian Dominique Farrugia and Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, second chance comedy “Bis,” helmed by Farrugia (“The Perfect Date”), features “Sticks” star Kad Merad (“Welcome to the Sticks”) and Franck Dubosc (laffer hits “Barbecue,” “Fiston” “Boule & Bill” and “Les Seigneurs”) as two best buddies, marooned in mid-life crisis, one an inveterate womanizer, the other a stuck-in-the-mud family man, propelled back to 1986. Suddenly, they are 17, sexy and single, and can start over. “Buddy Guards” has Joey Starr (“Polisse”) and Manu Payet (“All That Glitters”) racing against the clock in an action comedy.
A Studiocanal Jan. 7 release, “Chic!” stars Fanny Ardant (“8 Women”), Marina Hands (“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly”) and Eric Elmosino (“Gainsbourg”) in a haute couture romantic farce.
“Comedies” must, however, be taken in the broadest of senses. A “Brassed Off”-style dramedy – the set up is comedic, the treatment dramatic – “Discount,” sold by The Other Angle, turns on five drab supermarket employees who, soon to be replaced by automatic cash-registers, swipe produce bound for the trash-cans, selling it off to the needy – read pretty all their local village – at massive markdowns. Wild Bunch distributes in France.
Again a comedic set-up – a guy and his girlfriend cheat on each other, with the same girl – but a dramatic treatment, Versatile’s “A trois on y va,” a light love story between three young adults, marks Jerome Bonnell’s follow-up to laurelled romcom “Just a Sigh.” It is produced by Edouard Weil at Rectangle Productions, which backed Benoit Jacquot’s “Three Hearts” and Guillaume Gallienne’s “Me, Myself and Mum.”
Billed as a comedic suspenser with emotional impact, TF1’s “Boomerang” stars Lafitte and Melanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”) in the story of man in mid-life crisis investigating the death of his mother when he was a child.
Wild Bunch will give market outings to crime caper “The Price of Fame,” from Xavier Beauvois (“Of Gods and Men”), a Venice competition hit sold to major territories such as Japan, Italy and Spain.
A comedic murder mystery, “Valentin, Valentin,” from Said Ben Said’s SBS Productions, weighs in as a Paris-set makeover of Ruth Rendell’s psychologically astute crime novel “Tigerlily’s Orchids,” now set in a well-heeled but not-so-genteel-as it-seems Paris neighborhood. Geraldine Chaplin stars, along with a distinguished French ensemble cast.
Pathe will also unspool Thailand-set adventure laffer “Bangkok, We Have a Problem,” with Merad, as well as novelist-turned-filmmaker Sylvie Ohayon’s semi-autobiographical coming of age debut, “Papa Was not a Rolling Stone,” set in a tough multi-ethnic banlieue.
NOT JUST A LAUGHING MATTER
Comedy won’t be the only game in town at the Rendez-vous, however. As over much of the world, filmmakers are grafting social issues with genre, often thriller formats, to broaden audiences for subjects that in the past might well have been made as straight-arrow art films.
Two key RDV titles, both structured as thrillers, attack events that rocked modern France. Maybe Films Distribution’s biggest play at the Rendez-vous, “The Clearstream Affair,” from Vincent Garenq (“Guilty,” “Baby Love”), has Gilles Lellouche (“Point Blank”) as a journalist obsessed at digging the dirt on one of France’s biggest banking scandals. The personal price of his obsession proves high.
On SND’s sales slate, Frederic Tellier’s “SK1,” co -written by David Oelhoffen (“Far From Men”), registers the impact of a serial killer’s horrifically violent murders – plus the non-cooperation of rival police departments investigating the crimes – on a rookie and soon haunted homicide squad inspector, played by Raphael Personnaz (“Anna Karenina,” “The French Minister”).
Introduced to buyers by Gaumont, first-timer Fred Grivois’ “Through the Air” toplines Reda Kateb (“Zero Dark Thirty”) as a 30-year-old marksman and shooting champion recruited to become a hitman. Pic is co-written by Grivois, Thomas Bidegain (“A Prophet”) and Neo Debre (“Smart Ass”).
Indie Sales reps social thriller “The Night Watchman,” about a security guard stumbling on a crime – or so he thinks – helmed by Pierre Jolivet (“Zim & Co.”), and starring Cannes best actor winner Olivier Gourmet (“The Son”), from “Persepolis” producer 2.4.7 Films.
Wide will screen “Cruel,” crime novelist Eric Cherriere’s feature debut, about a loving son and serial killer, which drew positive reviews at its Busan Festival world premiere.
From Reel Suspects, Antoine Barraud’s “Portrait of an Artist” follows a renowned filmmaker obsessed by images of monstrosity, as a red stain festers on his back.
Staged strategically two-to-three weeks before the Berlin Festival, the Rendez-vous has traditionally been a showcase for more mainstream fare. France’s highest-profile art films were saved for the Berlinale.
Yet as France, like other international industries, moves more mainstream, many titles now mix arthouse and wider entertainment tropes; They scale up, and boast stars or at least name actors or star directors, amped-up tension, and narratives of betterment creating strong audience empathy. One crossover, Pathe’s “Beauty and the Beast,” was one of 2014’s top-three French performers outside France.
In one instance, already multi-prized at fests, and stretching over four decades, “The Man From Oran,” from Films Distribution and helmed by and starring French-Algerian Lyes Salem, weighs in at the 2015 Rendez-vous as a kind of “Once Upon a Time in Algeria,” taking its characters from the struggle for independence to the euphoria of freedom, then enrichment and disillusionment as Algeria degenerates into a corrupt, one-party state which invents its own official history.
Wild Bunch will also screen “The Smell of Us,” Larry Clark’s portrait of self-destructive Paris youth, which world preemed in Venice Days.
The SND-repped “A Perfect Man,” from Yann Gozlan (“Caged”), reteams “Yves Saint Laurent’s” producer, WY Productions, with its star, Pierre Niney, in a performance-driven drama turning on an aspiring writer who passes off a dead soldier’s diary as his own work.
From MK2, Elodie Namer’s “The Tournament” packs the tension of a genius smackdown as a 22-year-old French chess master, the natural favorite for a Budapest event, first confronts a new adversary: an 11-year-old prodigy.
Sold by Films Distribution, first-time director Cyprien Vial’s “Young Tiger” is an immigration drama, not about new arrivals’ penuries but rather the struggle of a young Punjabi, just arrived in Paris, to live up to the multiple and contradictory expectations vested in him.
Picked up by Le Pacte, Ada Louih’s directorial debut “So Long Africa” turns on a man, played by Niels Arestrup (“War Horse,” “A Prophet”), who, after spending his life in Africa, is repatriated to France, amid the Abidjan uprising of 2011, with a daughter he hardly knows in tow.
Set in 1995, Shirel Amitay’s “Atlit,” sold by Indie Sales, toplines Geraldine Nakache, Yael Abecassis and Judith Chemla as three sisters with issues who inherit a property in Israel, where Yitzhak Rabin’s sudden assassination has just turned the country upside down. Introduced by The Bureau Sales, Alain Choquart’s ensemble drama “Ladygrey” is also set in South Africa.
Despite the eyecatching box office for breakout comedies and the popularity of select thrillers, drama remains the most-sold of French film types: 13 titles opened in 20 or more territories in 2013, per UniFrance.
Pyramide Intl. market preems “Eva and Leon,” first-time helmer Emilie Cherpitel’s tale of a game-changing friendship between an immature 35-year-old woman and an over-adult 10-year-old boy. Co-starring, Clotilde Hesme, one of the most admired actresses of her generation.
Two more Other Angle titles world premiere in Paris: “The Art Dealer,” from Francois Margolin (“Flight of the Red Balloon”) about a Jewish woman recovering family paintings stolen by the Nazis; and Stefano Consiglio’s impossible love tale “L’Amore non perdona,” with Ariane Ascaride (“Les Heritiers”).
An adaptation of Doris Lessing’s “Victoria and The Staveneys,” “My Friend Victoria,” directed by Jean-Paul Civeyrac and sold by Les Films du Losange, tells the tale of a young black woman from a modest background who raises alone a little girl she had with a man from an upper-class family. The movie opened in France on Dec. 31. A second title from Les Films du Losange, and directed by Romain Goupil, “The Days Come” weaves fiction and documentary-style reality, featuring cameos from Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Marina Hands, Noemie Lvovsky and Jackie Berroyer. It played at Tokyo.
Alpha Violet will unveil Fred Nicolas’ “Max & Lenny,” a Marseille-set tale about two teen girls who bond through their love of rap.
KG Productions presents romantic drama “Graziella,” from Mehdi Charef (“Summer of ‘62”), starring Denis Lavant (“Holy Motors”) and chica Almodóvar Rossy de Palma as two cons, both imprisoned for crimes de passion, who re-meet – she always carried a candle for him – at a boarding school closed for the summer. KG Productions’ Michel Ray Gavras produces.
Wide-sold, vet Jean-Francois Davy’s final cut of “Transgression” will also screen in Paris. It is a frank docu-drama record of Davy’s involvement with a young wannabe actress.
Toon pic “Miniscule – Valley of the Lost Ants” sold 2.0 million tix outside France in 2014. Also underscoring the move from arthouse towards wider audience plays, Rendez-Vous screenings include market premieres of two toon pics: SND’s “Asterix: the Mansion of the Gods,” one of the widest sold titles at this year’s market and a box-office hit in France (see below), and Pascal Morelli’s EuropaCorp-handled “108 Demon Kings,” a tween adventure set in twelfth century China.
LAUGHING THEIR WAY TO THE BANK: THE RISE OF INTERNATIONAL FRENCH COMEDIES
On average, French films’ annual sales revenues rose a sturdy 14%, 2008-13. Put that down largely to two trends. Ever more frequent English-language international blockbusters from Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp; and the rise of French comedies, dismissed until just six years ago as largely local affairs, as international box office phenoms, or at least tidy money-spinners.
Exact numbers for French movies box office abroad in 2014 will be announced at UniFrance’s traditional Rendez-vous press conference, on Friday. Jan. 17, with Luc Besson in attendance. Thanks to Besson’s “Lucy,” France’s biggest ever hit abroad, selling 53.5 million tix through November, it is already clear that France looks to have punched one of its best years’ ever in 2014 in terms of foreign box office grosses on Gallic films.
But the hundreds of buyers who gather at Paris’ Hotel Intercontinental next week for the 17th Rendez-Vous With French Cinema will be scouring for a very different kind of movie to Besson’s testosterone fare: Comedies.
Reasons abound. Led by racism farce “Serial (Bad) Weddings,” the No. 1 movie in Gaul last year with a $98.5 million gross, and Dany Boon’s No. 2-ranking “Superchondriac” ($42.5 million), comedies powered up domestic tix sales for French movies to 91.6 million, per France’s CNC film board, their best year since 1984. Tracking at a first 19- day €20.7 million ($24.8 million), “La Famille Belier,” a follow-your-dreams dramedy, has a sporting chance of overhauling “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” as the biggest end of the year bow (see table).
That’s France. But ever since Dany Boon’s “Welcome to the Sticks” played to guffaws of laughter at a now milestone Paris Rendez-vous screening in 2008, the winners, large and small of its most popular comedy crown have gone on to sometimes-phenomenal figures, or at least useful over-performances, outside France as well.
“Sticks” grossed $162 million in France, $54 million abroad, in 2008 currency terms. Released by Senator, “The Intouchables’” extraordinary first-day German gross broke during the 2011 event, firing up a foreign feeding fever for French comedy, especially from its sales company, Gaumont. Part of TF1 Intl.’s RDV show-reel in 2014, racism farce “Serial (Bad) Weddings” was France’s second-biggest hit abroad last year, punching $33.8 million in Germany, ranking No. 2 there, just bested by “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Despite France’s grand arthouse traditions, and the $319.0 million B.O. outside France for the Besson-produced “Taken 2” in 2012, as well as $59.5 million for “Malavita,” which he helmed, in 2013, in both 2012 and 2013 comedies were France’s best performing film type outside France, repping 32% of total box office, vs. 28% for dramas and 25% for thriller/adventure fare, per UniFrance.
“A new generation of French producers are thinking from script-stage that they shouldn’t neglect the international market, maybe because France’s financing system covers less of films’ budgets, but also due to their realization that if you have a broadly mainstream movie with a strong concept, you can really have potential abroad,” said Nicolas Brigaud-Robert, at Films Distribution.
FRENCH FILMS’ AVERAGE ANNUAL SALES REVENUES
Euro millions, 2004-2008, 2009-2013, % change
Western Europe, € 70.236, € 72.31, +3%
North America, € 29.250, € 46.55, +59%
Central, East Europe, € 18.2, € 18.0 , -1%
Asia, € 18.1, € 13.8, -24%
Latin America, € 4.2, € 7.1, +66%
Australasia, € 2.0, € 3.3, +68%
Others, € 2.9, € 3.6, +26%
Middle East, € 1.8, € 3.3, +85%
Africa, € 850, € 620, -27%
Total: € 147. 5, € 168.6, +14%
In U.S. dollar millions, 2004-2008, 2009-2013, %
Western Europe, $84.3, $86.8, +3%
North America, $35.1, $55.9, +59%
Central, East Europe, $21.8, $21.6, -1%
Latin America, $5.1, $8.4,+66%
Australasia, $2.4, $3.9, +68%
Others, $3.4, $4.3, +26%
Middle East, $2.1, $3.9,+85%
Africa,$1.0, $744, -27%
Total: $177.0, $202.3,+14%
€1 = $1.2 million Source: CNC, Exportation de Films
LA COMEDIE FRANÇAISE RULES O.K.: FRENCH BOX OFFICE, DEC. 31.- JAN.4, 2015
2015 dawned with four Gallic comedies in the Top Ten in France, the second biggest movie market in Europe, over Dec. 31 to Jan. 4. Heavily pre-sold, “La Famille Belier” will be a 2015 Rendez-vous highlight, especially for those distributors who have bought it. “Do Not Disturb,” Patrice Leconte’s latest, with the marquee draw of “Bad (Serial) Weddings’” Cristian Clavier, debuted to a first five-day €3.1 million ($3.7 million), which puts Leconte on track for his biggest hit, bar “Les Bronzes 3,” since 1996’s “Ridicule.” Toon pic “Asterix- The Mansions of God” – like “La Famille Belier,” a SND-M6 Group co-production – has grossed €18.6 million ($22.3 million); Gaumont’s “La French,” with Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and Gilles Lellouche (“Point Blank”), has cumed €9.3 million ($11.1 million). A fifth title, “Paddington,” was financed by Euro film-TV group Studiocanal, H.Q.-ed in Paris.
TITLE, DIRECTOR, FRENCH DISTRUBUTOR, ADMISSIONS
1.“La Famille Belier,” Eric Lartigau, Mars Distribution, 3.2 million admissions
2.”Do Not Disturb,” Patrice Leconte, Wild Bunch Distribution, 476,88
3.“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” Peter Jackson, Warner Bros. 4.5 million
4.”Penguins of Madagascar,” Simon J. Smith, 20th Century Fox 1.9 million
5.“Exodus: Gods and Kings,” Ridley Scott, 20th Century Fox 1.2 million
6.“Paddington,” Paul King, Studiocanal, 2.4 million
7.“Asterix – The Mansion of the Gods,” Alexandre Astier, Louis Clichy, SND, 2.7 million
8.“A Most Violent Year,” J.C. Chandor, Studiocanal, 145, 396
9.”La French,” Cedric Jimenez, Gaumont Distribution, 1.4 million
10.“Whiplash,” Damien Chazelle, Ad Vitam, 238,760
Source: Rentrak, France