In a classic division of labor between a Hollywood studio and independent sales company, Paris-based Other Angle Pictures, France’s biggest comedy export specialist, has boarded three new French titles to be distributed in France by Universal Pictures International France: “In and Out,” “Grounded,” and “Just Divorced.”
Headed by Olivier Albou and Laurence Schonberg, Other Angle Pictures will take up the three comedies with buyers at next week’s UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris. It is also representing two titles from Philippe Rousselet’s Vendome Production, which is positioning itself as the Working Title of France, producing upscale mainstream comedies with higher-profile casts and significant production values. “The Belier Family,” Vendome’s biggest hit to date, grossed about $64 million in France; Omar Sy-starrer “Two Is a Family” has earned over $15 million so far since its Dec. 12 bow.
“In and Out” is the first pickup made by Xavier Albert, director general of Universal Pictures International France, which is increasing its commitment to French film production. The film (“L’Un dans L’Autre”) is one of Vendome’s newest productions. Directed by Bruno Chiche, whose drama “Small World” won a prize at the 2010 Marrakech Festival, “In and Out” turns on two supposedly best-friend couples, two of whose spouses – the husband of one, the wife of the other – are having an affair. Just as they decide to end it, they swap bodies. The cast features Louise Bourgoin, star of Luc Besson’s “Adele Blanc Sec.” UPI France will open “In and Out” on Oct. 4 in France.
A teen “Groundhog Day,” “Grounded,” which is currently shooting, is directed by Alexandre Castagnetti (“Tamara,” “Love Is in the Air”). It centers on a 16-year-old high school student who relives the same afternoon in detention, over and over again, with the girl he secretly has a crush on. Stuck in a time warp, he edges ever nearer to winning her heart. Universal bows Castagnetti’s latest on Aug. 9.
Directed by Maxime Govare, “Just Divorced” stars Vincent Elbaz (“The Assault”) as a man on the verge of divorce who launches a day-school to prove to his wife that he he has the chops for fatherhood. Co-starring is Laurence Arné, who played opposite Dany Boon in “Penny Pincher!” last year.
The romantic comedy is produced by Les Improductibles, the production-branded content company behind Govare’s co-directed “I Kissed a Girl,” which Gaumont released in early 2015. Entitled “Daddy Cool” in France, “Just Divorced” bows Dec. 27 this year.
Announcing the acquisition of “In and Out,” Albert confirmed that UPI France would focus on comedies. Last year’s top eight French films in France were comedies, amassing a combined box office of 21.3 million admissions – around €140 million ($147 million) in box office gross.
Apart from Other Angle Pictures, most other companies which are frequent producers-distributors-financiers of French comedies screening at the Rendez-Vous are France’s mainstream distribution outfits, such as Pathe, Gaumont and top free-to-air broadcaster TF1.
When it comes to film types, comedies also represent France’s top movie export, selling 326 million tickets at cinema cheaters outside France over 1995-2014, more than thrillers/adventure films (234 million) or drama (97 million), despite France’s reputation for auteur cinema, according to a 2016 Unifrance study.
France’s biggest comedies of 2016 were largely sequels, made by some of the most experienced practitioners in the genre: Olivier Baroux, Frank Onteniente and Jean-Marie Poire. With much top comedy talent taken up, Universal and Other Angle Pictures have begun building relationships with a younger generation of directors such as Castagnetti, whose “Love is in the Air” was praised by critics for its inventiveness in setting a romantic comedy almost entirely on a trans-Atlantic flight.
The three Universal titles join an Other Angle Pictures slate that is the biggest of any sales company at the Rendez-Vous. The slate taps new or young talent, features six first films, and mixes comedy with drama, action, social satire, even fantasy.
“Audiences don’t want to have just pure comedy anymore. Some do very well, but pure comedy with no soul doesn’t really work,” Albou said.
Other Angle Pictures’ Rendez-Vous slate:
*Directed by Hector Cabello Reyes and a feel-good friendship story about crossing emotional borders, “An Indian Tale” is a French remake of B.O.-sales hit “Chinese Take-Out,” with Benoit Poelvoorde (“Nothing To Declare”) playing the Ricardo Darin role of the obsessive compulsive who opens up to the woman who loves him under the impact of taking in an Indian lodger who speaks not a word of French. Cine@’s Philippe Carcassonne and Leonard Glowinski, at 22h22 produce.
*Though its first 12-day €4.4 million ($4.6 million) box office disappointed, given director Nicolas Benamou’s huge trawls for his two“Babysitting” buddy gross-out comedies, “Full Speed” has now closed new sales deals for Latin America (California), Switzerland (Frenetic), Middle East (Falcon), Taiwan (Creative Century) and Hungary (Cinetel). Added to previously announced sales pacts with Germany (Wild Bunch) and Italy (Lucky Red), “Full Speed” was Other Pictures’ biggest selling title of 2016, Albou said. The action comedy features a French family that hits the motorway in dad’s spangling red van – which he unfortunately locks in cruise control at 80 mph.
*Olivier Casas’ first feature, “Baby Phone,” turns on a couple which invites around family and friends to meet their new tyke, whose cradle-side baby monitor inadvertently relays the guests’ most embarrassing declarations.
*“Don’t Tell Her,” distributed in France by Sony and the highest-grossing of France’s new Jan. 4 releases, marks Other Angle’s first production. Lead-produced by Entre Chien et Loup (“The Congress,” “Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants”), one of Belgium’s most prolific co-producers, “Don’t Tell Her” turns on four thirty-something women who pull back from telling each other harsh truths. “We wanted to produce. You have input on the creative side and more financial upside,” Albou said.
*Picked up just before the American Film Market, “No Jobs Agency” stars Frank Dubosc, co-star of France’s big “Camping” comedy franchise, and Elsa Zylberstein, who toplined Claude Lelouch’s “Un + Une,” as co-workers at a state employment agency who are laid off, having created 100% employment in their region. They hit back ingeniously. Distributed by Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp in France, the movie garnered 490,624 admissions, about $3.4 million in gross box office.
*Developed from his 2009 short, ”How I Met My Father,” directed by freshman Maxime Motte, turns on the adopted African son of a couple in Normandy who take in an immigrant on the run from the police. The boy thinks he may have just have met his biological father. Vendome Production co-produces.
Other Angle Pictures will also be screening “Blockbuster,” an arthouse comedy about a jilted boyfriend who invents a fantasy world to win back his love, and Flavia Coste’s debut “Un Jour Mon Prince,” a sweetly mordant contemporary fairy-tale where two fairies visit modern-day Paris to find a Prince Charming for Cinderella. Appropriate candidates appear thin on the ground. Paradis Films distributes in France.