PARIS — Dany Boon’s “R.A.I.D. Special Unit,” Romain Duris-starrer “The Confession,” and Omar Sy’s “Two Is a Family” will screen at the 19th UniFrance Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, the biggest national film market in the world.
The 2017 edition, which runs Jan. 12-16 at Paris’ Intercontinental Hotel, acts as a sales platform for France’s more commercial movies, many of which will hit theaters in the first part of 2017. The Paris Rendez-Vous also features some notable debuts and arthouse standouts, and highlights trends, talents and challenges in Europe’s biggest movie industry-cum-arthouse-crossover export hub.
Here are 10 things you should know about this year’s edition:
1. BOON, SY, RENO, AND DURIS
Boon directs the Pathe-sold “R.A.I.D,” where he plays a misogynistic elite police operative paired with a klutzy female recruit (Alice Pol). 2014’s “Superchondriac,” Boon’s latest movie as a director, earned about $36 million in France, where “R.A.I.D” bows Feb. 1. “Two Is a Family” has Sy as as single dad stuntman in London, giving his young daughter a dream childhood. Of other star-laden titles, Jean Reno (“Leon: the Professional”) plays a master-thief pulling a job in Courchevel, a luxury French ski resort, in crime caper “Family Heist.” Inspired by Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Leon Morin, Priest,” forbidden love drama “The Confession” stars Marine Vacht (“Young and Beautiful”) as a woman who falls for an upright priest (Duris ,“The New Girlfriend”) in World War II France.
2. THIERRY FREMAUX DOES AN ALMODOVAR IN ‘LUMIERE!’
Pedro Almodovar broke through, on Madrid underground circuits at least, declaiming the dialogue of his short films while standing next to the screen. Donning his cap as director of Lyon’s Institut Lumiere, Thierry Fremaux will likewise provide live – and no doubt humor-laced – commentary at the Rendez-Vous for “Lumiere!” a collection of 98 shorts by Auguste and Louis Lumiere. A myth-busting initiative, “Lumiere!” sets out to demonstrate that the brothers not only invented cinema as a collective-audience experience but knew how to direct.
3. WOMEN ON THE RISE
Opening with “Dalida,” from Lisa Azuelos, a noteworthy 34% of the 76 titles announced as screening in Paris are directed by women. A clutch more – Stephane Brize’s “A Woman’s Life,” for instance – are notable films about women. Rendez-Vous movies are put forward by sales agents given their market potential. “It’s good to see that films made by women are [thought to be] films for a market,” said Gilles Renouard, UniFrance co-deputy director.
Nearly half (42%) of these movies are also first features. Some of the most interesting debuts are set abroad, such as Maysaloun Hamoud’s “In Between” (in Tel Aviv), or focus on France from a foreigner’s point of view, such as Lidia Terki’s “Paris La Blanche.”
4. THERE’S ONLY ONE LUC BESSON
With no global juggernaut from EuropaCorp in 2016 (“Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets” bows July 14 in France), and no big international breakouts such as 2012’s “The Artist” and “The Intouchables” or 2015’s “The Little Prince,” total international B.O. for French movies in 2016 will come in lower than the €622.8 million ($656.4 million) earned in 2015. Just how much lower will be announced by UniFrance at its annual export results press conference Jan. 13.
One example: Over the first 11 months of 2016, only two films – EuropaCorp’s “Shut In,” mainly off its (low) U.S.-bow, and “The Little Prince” last January – sold over 1 million admissions outside France in a month, the rough equivalent of $4 million to $7 million in box office. For lack of a big new entry, “The Little Prince,” the No. 2 best theatrical performer outside France in 2015, may rank No. 1 in 2016. Given that, French films’ annual box office abroad in 2016 will most probably be one of the lowest in a decade.
Between 2006 and 2015, international box office for French films hit a high in 2012 with €889.6 million ($937.6 million) and a low a year later, in 2013, with €300.8 million ($317.0 million).
5. FRAGMENTATION OF REVENUES
UniFrance’s 2016 box office results will be announced in Paris only two months after a report from France’s CNC film board, “The Export of French Films in 2015,” which announced that French sales agents’ revenues in 2015 were the highest ever recorded: €327.3 million. Over 2006-15, sales grew an average 2.7% per year.
The increase has been driven by a diversification in markets, with noted long-term upticks in the U.S., Latin America, South Korea and China; a diversification in the kinds of films which get sold and sales deals achieved, with remake pacts growing in some territories and seemingly impossible-to-export local comedies opening abroad. At least 39 French movies look set to end 2016 having grossed over $1 million at foreign theaters. France’s No. 2 or No. 3 biggest hit abroad in 2016 looks like Kev Adams-starrer “The New Adventures of Aladdin,” thanks to a 4,000-screen 10-day run in China in November, which earned €2.3 million ($2.4 million). French exporters are eagerly anticipating the promised launch in 2017 of an arthouse circuit in China.
More kinds of French films are selling abroad. 2015 marked a coming of age for French animation exports. This year’s Rendez-Vous lineup includes Studiocanal’s “Alone,” from David Moreau (“IT Boy”), a noirish Apocalypse-set teen survival thriller; mob drama “Money,” from Gela Bablouiani (“13 Tzameti”), which Sinology handles; “Toril,” Laurent Tessier’s drug-pushing thriller set in the distinctive milieu of Provence, handled by Versatile; Thomas Kruithof’s espionage-themed “The Eavesdropper,” sold by WTFilms; and Daouda Coulibaly’s “Wulu,” a Mali-set drug-smuggling thriller, from Indie Sales. “African movies are normally arthouse. This is a real thriller, an African film like you’ve never seen before,” Renouard said.
7. WILD BUNCH
Sales agents use the Rendez-Vous to talk up their projects and in-production titles. Despite Wild Bunch’s problems with distribution in France, the company boasts one of the strongest French sales slates in the business. Among potential highlights Wild Bunch will promote at the Rendez-Vous: Christian Carrion’s “My Son,” a thriller with Guillaume Canet, and Senegal-set drama “WAO,” starring Omar Sy. Wild Bunch previously announced titles such as Michel Hazanavicius’ “Redoubtable” and Arnaud Desplechin’s “Ismael’s Ghosts.”
8. THERE’S ONLY ONE ISABELLE HUPPERT
The greatest actress alive, according to Variety’s Peter Debruge, was in New York on Nov. 28, accepting a Gotham Award and talking up “Elle.” By Nov. 30, she was in Buenos Aires, attending Thierry Fremaux’s Cannes Film Week and talking up “Elle.” By Dec. 4, she was at the Marrakech Festival and still talking up “Elle.” She served as the patron of March’s New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Today and the French Film Festival in Japan in June. Like few stars, Huppert goes the extra mile to promote her films and French cinema at large. She will receive a UniFrance French Cinema Award on Jan. 13 at the Rendez-Vous.
9. THE BUZZ
Boasting 46 market premieres and 30 first features among its 76 screenings, the Rendez-Vous is a market where titles can come almost out of nowhere to grab sales and box office. Dany Boon’s second feature, the comedy “Welcome to the Sticks,” screened at the 2008 Rendez-Vous before its world premiere and was viewed as a guilty pleasure by most distributors as they went about the serious business of buying art films. It went on to gross $162.4 million in France and a robust $53.7 million abroad. Of new Rendez-Vous titles this year, there’s already a good buzz on Pigalle-set “Paris Prestige,” with Reda Kateb and Melanie Laurent, and rehabilitation ward-set “Patients,” from Fabien Marsaud (aka Grand Corps Malade).
But the perennial big question at the Rendez-Vous is what could be France’s next big comedy breakout, as “The Intouchables” proved in 2012, with B.O. figures from its astounding first weekend in Germany breaking during the 2012 event.
For decades, Latin America has looked to France for inspiration. Now France is looking to Latin America. There may be no better indication at the Rendez-Vous of globalization at work than the fact that two high-profile French titles are remakes of Latin American hits. “Two Is a Family” relocates the Mexican-U.S.-set “Instructions Not Included” between Southern France and London; “An Indian Tale” reworks Ricardo Darin-starrer “Chinese Take-Out.”
But inspiration doesn’t guarantee success. Starring Jean Dujardin as a height-challenged beau, “Un homme a la hauteur,” a French remake of Argentina’s “Corazon de leon,” performed modestly for Gaumont last May. But with “Two Is a Family” tracking for at least $15 million to $18 million in France, one Rendez-Vous talking point will be if it could have legs abroad. In a key test, Tobis bows “Two Is a Family” in Germany on Jan. 5.