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‘Eva,’ ‘La Ch’tite Famille,’ ‘Non-Fiction’ Standouts at the 2018 UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris

Europe’s biggest national cinema showcase holds strong, if catching the French industry in transition

PARIS — Isabelle Huppert’s “Eva,” from Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, Dany Boon’s Pathe-sold “La Ch’tite Famille,” and Olivier Assayas’ “Non-Fiction,” handled by Playtime, proved some of the highlights of a 2018 UniFrance Rendez-Vous that caught French films and France’s industry in a state of transition.

That can be taken several ways. Many of the big new titles on offer at the Rendez-Vous – “Ch’Tite,” Jean Dujardin-starrer “The Return of the King,” from Studiocanal –  have been widely pre-sold, especially to Europe – leaving the 500-or-so foreign distributors at the Rendez-Vous, mostly drawn from Europe, to hunt more towards the margins for potential breakouts among titles screening. So some market buzz this year at the Rendez-Vous turned less on films screening that French sales agents’ mouth-watering line-up of upcoming titles, such as “Non-Fiction.”

Much Rendez-Vous table-talk turned on the possible new ownership makeup of both EuropaCorp, which will make a presentation to potential investors this week, and even Wild Bunch – though how much of the later is speculation remains to be seen. Both have been mainstays of France’s sales business for the last 15 years.

At a traditional Friday night presentation, where Juliette Binoche was honored with UniFrance’s French Cinema Award, UniFrance revealed that in 2017 box office for French films outside France bounced back to a total of €468 million ($552.1 million) – a near exact par for theatrical earnings over 2007-2016. Much of the future of France’s movie exports will be determined, however, by how its titles are positioned and perform on digital platforms, as Isabelle Giordano pointed out in a Variety interview. Those figures are, as yet, unknown.

Of Rendez-Vous highlights, selected for Berlin Competition, shown by EuropaCorp at a private screening, directed by Benoit Jacquot (“Farewell, My Queen”) and adapting a 1945 James Hadley Chase made into a 1962 film by Joseph Losey, “Eva” was cited by multiple distributors at the Rendez-Vous as one of its standouts, with a reportedly great performance – so what else is new? – by Huppert as a prostitute who destroys the life of a would-be playwright (Gaspard Ulliel).

One of the big three 2018 Rendez-Vous comedies – with François Cluzet’s “Normandie Nue” and Jean Dujardin’s “Return of the Hero” – “La Ch’tite Famille,” marking Boon’s return to the “Ch’tite” universe of “Welcome to the Sticks” but not a sequel, had an industry audience frequently in stitches at its packed industry screening on Friday.

At the UniFrance Rendez-Vous, Playtime (formerly Films Distribution), a building force in European film sales and production, revealed it is partnering with Charles Gillibert’s CG Cinema to co-produce and handle international sales on Olivier Assayas’ “Non-Fiction,” a tragicomedy set in the Parisian publishing world starring Juliette Binoche, Guillaume Canet and Vincent Macaigne.

Deal announcements at the Rendez-Vous were legion, often playing off unannounced pre-sales on major titles – comedies and big art-house titles – clocked up since as far back as Cannes. Of these and new dealings at the 2oth Rendez-Vous:

*Making its market debut at the RDV, beyond sales company and co-producer Studiocanal’s home territories of Germany, France, U.K. and Australia/New Zealand – where it can distribute directly or via third parties – Laurent Tirard’s  “Return of the Hero,” a screwball comedy-romance with Dujardin (“The Artist”) and Melanie Laurent (“Inglorious Basterds”) has closed Japan, China, much of Western Europe and most of Eastern Europe and South America.

*Other Angle Pictures’ Olivier Albou announced in Paris that he had sold “The Bouncer,” from Julien Leclercq’s (“The Attack”), a “Taken”-style action thriller with Jean-Claude Van Damme, to “some of the best distributors in each territory abroad,” instancing Constantin in Germany. Albou will announce at Berlin full sales on “The Bouncer” and two other big Rendez-Vous titles – Xavier Gens’ action-comedy “Budapest,” Daniel Auteuil’s “The Other Woman” – he said.

*Another world market debut in Paris, ”La Ch’Tite Famille” hit the Rendez-Vous with a near score of pre-sales including, crucially, Germany (Concorde), Italy (RAI) and Spain (Tripictures/DeAPlaneta), the heartland of France’s overseas’ comedy markets in Europe, as well as China (Fundamental). Pathé Intl. confirmed Monday that Scandinavia, Israel and CIS are currently in negotiation.

* Starring Daniel Auteuil as a tyrannical yet well-intentioned, and lonely, mentor of a brilliant law student, Yvan Attal’s “Le Brio” sold to Spain (BTeam), China (Hi-show), Israel (LEV), the Middle East (Empire) and Taiwan. Opened Nov. 22, “Le Brio” has sold more than 1.1 million tickets in France,  equivalent to about $8 million, a robust number. “Le Brio” was already acquired for Germany (SquareOne), Scandinavia (Njuta), Canada (AZ Films), Brazil (Pandora) and Spenzos (Greece).

*Memento Films Intl. confirmed sales to most of the world on Xavier Giannoli’s “The Apparition,” a religious – and human – miracle drama-thriller starring Vincent Lindon. Deals sold included all major territories in Europe and all of Latin America;

*SND has closed a flurry of sales on upscale social comedy-drama “Normadie Nue,” from successful French comedian Philippe Le Guay, clinching. among multiple territories, both Germany (Concorde) and Spain (Vertice).

*Already licensed across much of Europe, “Jealous,” was sold by Studiocanal at the Rendez-Vous to Officine Ubu for Italy. The second feature from David and Stéphane Foenkinos, it stars Karin Viard (“My Piece of the Pie”) as a middle-aging woman suddenly consumed by envy for her daughter, ex, best-friend and a new work colleague.

*Two more Pathé Intl. titles have proved favorites among buyers. Screened in a Special Presentation at Toronto, and also a favorite among journalists at the Rendez-Vous, “Les Gardinenes,” directed by Xavier Beauvois (“Of Gods and Men”) sold to Spain (Wanda), Denmark (Camera), Finland (Cinemundo), Norway (Fidalgo) and Sweden (Triart). The film will also be released in the U.S. (Music Box), Canada (MK2 Mile End), Netherlands (Paradiso), Greece (Feelgood), Portugal (Outsider), U.K. (Curzon), ex-Yugoslavia (MCF), Turkey (Filmarti), China (Blueshare) and Japan (New Select).

*Cited as a RDV highlight by some distributors, Pathe’s “Promise at Dawn,” reuniting Charlotte Gainsbourg and Pierre Niney, and heading towards one million admissions in France, now has deals under negotiation in Spain, Poland and CIS. The mother-son period drama will be released in Japan (Shochiku), Latin America (CDC), South Korea (Hammer), Canada (AZ Films), China (DDDream), Greece (Feelgood), Taïwan (Proview), Israel (Eden cinema), Middle East (Empire), Vietnam (PNE) and Turkey (Sinema TV).

*Bodega Films has bought French distribution rights to Lila Aviles’ “La Camarista,” sold by Alpha Violet, now in post, and a pic-in-post prize-winner at November’s Los Cabos and Ventana Sur.

*Upside Distribution has sold “Speak Up,” by Stéphane de Freitas, co-directed Ladj Ly and released in France by Mars Films, to Blackpills (U.S., Canada), Wanted (Italy), Cinéma Galleries (Belgium), Agora (Switzerland), Time Vision/Hualu (China) and Sky Digi (Taiwan).

Of upcoming films, buzzed-up titles, all maybe bound for Cannes, took in Claire Denis’ first film in English, “High Life,” a sci-fi drama-thriller with Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche; Pablo Trapero’s “La Quietud,” with Bérénice Bejo and Martina Gusmán, again sold by Wild Bunch; and even Yann Gonzalez’s “Un couteau dans le coeur,” set in Paris’ porn industry in 1979.

But with big titles often pre-sold in Europe, buzz on films screening often turned on smaller titles, often caught by only a minority of distributors. Love triangle comedy “Girl (Friend)” (Ami. Ami), sold by Le Pacte, and the Wide-handled “Pororoca,” Constantin Popescu’s San Sebastian winner, both had their fans.

The Alpe d’Huez Comedy Festival best film and actor prize for Robin Sykes’ Orange Studio-sold “In the Game,” Audience Award to Eloise Lang’s “Larguees, and Special Jury Prize for  Le Doudou, sold by Pathé Intl. and starring Kad Merad, will raise their profiles.

Despite rapid market change, the Rendez-Vous holds strong for sellers of French films and buyers alike.

“The Rendez-Vous comes at still one of the best moments of the year. People’s minds are fresh from the holidays,” said Other Angle Pictures’ Olivier Albou.

He added: “They are focused on looking at French product before Berlin. It’s probably the best time of the year for us to screen a movie or to announce a new film outside of Cannes.”

The Rendez-Vous unspools strategically-dated three weeks before the Berlinale. For upscale “quality” cinema, whatever its national origin, Paris is still arguably the sales agent capital of the world.

Attending the Rendez-Vous, “you’ve done 30% of the work before Berlin,” said Bülent Günduz, at Turkey’s FilmArti.

One enticement of the 2018 Rendez-Vous was the considerable clutch of movies made by women, though this number could grow all the more. Of titles this year, Sofia Djama’s debut, “The Blessed,” sold by Bac Films, and a portrait of a 2008 Algiers sinking into fundamentalism (and sexism), was praised by multiple distributors. Feminist films are moving on, as well. Indie Sales’ dramedy “When Margaux Met Margaux,” for instance, posed the intriguing question of what women had to fear when freed from men. Its answer looked to be overseeing dominance from other women.

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