PARIS — Two Cannes Critics’ Week hits – ‘Guy,” “Sauvage” – and Erick Zonca’s comeback, “Black Tide,” are three potential highlights in a still-expanding MyFrenchFilmFestival, French promotion org UniFrance’s annual online selection of French and French-language films.
Unveiling MyFFF’s 2019 edition in Paris on Wednesday, UniFrance also revealed that this year’s ninth edition will bow a TV strand, showcasing espionage thriller “The Bureau,” a recent and game-changing Canal Plus Création Originale. The international filmmakers’ jury – unveiled by UniFrance’s president Serge Toubiana and co-managing director Isabelle Giordano on Wednesday morning at Google’s offices in Paris — comprises Jaco Van Dormael (“The Brand New Testament”), Houda Benyamina (“Divines”), Coralie Fargeat (“Revenge”), Mikhaël Hers (“Amanda”) and Kim Nguyen (“Rebelle”). Citing “Divines” which sold to Netflix, and “Revenge” which was acquired by AMC’s Shudder, Toubiana and Giordano said all the filmmakers on the jury have had a connection with a digital service.
Here are 10 points about this year’s edition:
1.MORE MyFFF VOD DISTRIBUTION DEALS, NO CHINA
MyFrenchFilmFestival has increased its VOD platform distribution spread to over 50 OTT services. New partners include Film Movement +, the U.S. independent distributor’s recently-launched VOD service.
“A particular effort has been made in Asia this year, with new and promising partnerships with platforms,” MyFFF co-director Quentin Deleau told Variety, citing, of new partners, Catchplay in Taiwan and Singapore, iFlix in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, among other South-East Asia countries, and RakutenTV, Beauties and U-Next in Japan.
The new VOD drive may compensate in part for the loss of online distribution in China, Deleau added. Launched in 2011, and netting 40,000 views in its first years of operations, MyFFF’s global viewership climbed steadily to 6.7 million in 2017, then leapt to 12 million-plus last year, thanks to the addition of Chinese platform Jia Screen, launched by Jia Zhangke, which specialized in short films and contributed nearly six million views. Jia Screen no longer operates, however. But while there is no Chinese service on board for MyFFF, Deleau said the festival will for the first time boast Chinese subtitles in order to cater to Chinese audiences.
2.VOD PLATFORMS’ BUILDING INTEREST IN FILM
Other factors also explain MyFFF’s hike in VOD partners, and are indicative of a bigger picture for VOD and movies. For Deleau, “it’s UniFrance’s job to be in touch with the largest number of platforms [possible] through this Festival, in order to take the pulse of these platforms, of the sector, and better understand where the audience and money are.”
VOD platforms are also showing “more and more” interest in MyFFF as feature films are “beginning to be seen as far more potent branding and marketing tool for platforms than in the past,” Deleau added.
3.POTENTIAL STANDOUTS: ‘SAUVAGE,’ ‘BLACK TIDE’
Sold by Pyramide Intl., “Sauvage” proved one of the best-reviewed of Critics’ Week entries. “Camille Vidal-Naquet’s straightforward but impressively, well, savage debut is a powerful portrait of a gay male prostitute in freefall,” with an “extraordinary performance” from lead Félix Maritaud,” Guy Lodge wrote in Variety.
Sold by Playtime to 21 territories and starring Vincent Cassel (“Black Swan”) as a shambolic, violent whisky-guzzling police inspector and Romain Duris (“The New Girlfriend”) as a sinister chief suspect, “Black Tide,” an ever more entangled and numbing missing teen mystery-thriller, marks the first feature in nearly 10 years for Zonca, director of “The Dreamlife of Angels.”
4.FILMMAKING AS AN OCCASIONAL OPTION: ALEX LUTZ, JEAN LIBON AND YVES HINANT
MyFrench Film Festival focuses on new talent: 7 out of its 11 first-run features are first or second movies. But new talent must be understood in current career contexts.
“Guy” is a mockumentary on an over-the hill but still on-the-road French crooner which was warmly-welcomed as Cannes Critics’ Week closing film.
Viewers in Latin America and Asia might not get all the references to popular French music, Claude François style, but “it’s very interesting what he’s saying about the family, about the lifestyle of the famous,” said Simon Helloco, co-director of MyFrenchFilmFestival with Deleau.
“Guy,” is Alex Lutz’s just second feature, but his career as a comedian stretches back to 1994.
A documentary feature, Jean Libon and Yves Hinant’s “So Help Me God” lifts the lid on the extraordinary but real-life Brussels examining magistrate Anne Gruwez as she unearths a cold case while processing motley detainees. “So Help Me God” is again a second feature. But Libon first directed way back in 1985, creating cult Belgian TV series “Strip-Tease.”
5.’THE BUREAU’: A GAMECHANGER
“TV is one of our new fortes this year. We want to put forward the best of French creation,” said Helloco.
In TV it almost certainly has: A Canal Plus Création Originale broadcast from April 2015 on the French pay TV giant, sold and co-produced by Federation Ent., “The Bureau” delves into the labyrinth workings of France’s DGSC intelligence service. It also helped import into France a new production format, based around a showrunner, Eric Rochant, and a writers’ room.
“We want to champion visual creation regardless of its format, and we think a compelling series like ‘The Bureau’ can entice audiences to discover French cinema and talented filmmakers like Eric Rochant,” said Giordano.
Also notable for its production rhythm – Canal Plus has already released Season 4 – “The Bureau” is acclaimed as one of the best French drama series ever, boasting for its fans both nuanced performances and sage reactions to geo-political flash-points and peopled by characters with absolutely dowdy domestic lives.
Just how many other writer-directors can match Rochant’s productivity is another matter.
“The Bureau” has been sold to territories around the world but remains unseen in some territories such as Latin America and Asia, Helloco noted.
6.OTHER MyFFF HIGHLIGHTS
Counting as other potential MyFFF highlights, “Fake Tattoos,” a first feature from Quebec’s Pascal Plante playing out of competition, weighs in as an above-par punk-rock love story greeted by Variety’s Jessica Chiang as “a touchingly real romance that’s as vibrant, sweet and brief as first love itself.” “The film is very cute, plays like a Canadian Eric Rohmer movie,” Helloco added.
Of MyFFF classic films, “Bad Blood,” an intoxicating 1986 heist movie starring Denis Lavant, Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche and a young Julie Delpy, forged Leos Carax’s still resilient cult reputation.
A photomontage time-travel romance released in 1962, “The Pier” remains one of the most influential shorts in modern cinema, made by the legendary Chris Marker, a co-reviewer with André Bazin, collaborator of Alain Resnais and co-writer of Patricio Guzman’s “The Battle of Chile.”
MyFFF’s 10 competition short films take in “The Seventh Continent,” the directorial debut of Noé Debré, a co-writer on “Deephan,” “Racer and the Jailbird” and “Le Brio. In it, he manages to talk about ecological issues via a lovingly parodied film noir thriller. Making the cut are two relatively new but buzzed-up titles, Baptiste Petit-Gats’ reportedly Dardennesque “Flowers” and Emmanuel Blanchard’s “The Collection,” transferring Stefan Zweig’s classic novella to 1942 Nazi-occupied Paris. Also in the running: Julien Trauman’s “At Dawn,” a genre-tinted open-sea survival thriller, and “Blue Dog,” Fanny Leotard and Jérémy Trouilh’s touching tale on cultural inclusion.
8.ECLECTICISM & GENRE COCKTAILS
If 2019’s MyFFF lineup is more eclectic, that’s also because it reflects the the increasingly diverse entertainment options open to French directors and audiences. “The Bureau” is auteur TV. Hayoun Kwon’s four-minute “Le Voyage Intérieur de Gauguin” is a Virtual Reality short, which immerses the viewer in the painter’s creative process as he discovers Tahiti. “Words Hurt” marks MyFFF’s first interactive short, in which spectators decide the future life choices of a man who cheats at his final exams.
Ever more wide-ranging in its programming, MyFrenchFilmFestival also underscores the diversity in film type of even individual titles.
Debuting with 2005 Directors’ Fortnight player “Cold Showers,” Antony Cordier lets loose in his third film, “Gaspard at the Wedding,” where Gaspard returns to the family fold, a bankrupt rural zoo, for his father’s second marriage, and finally confronts his inner demons. That may seem the stuff of a classic coming-of-age narrative. But the film is also a genre cocktail, with romantic drama – Gaspard pays a girl to pretend to be his girlfriend, then falls in love with her – sluiced by moments of humor, dysfunctional family satire and a musical interlude.
Actress-director Noémie Lvovsky’s “Tomorrow and Thereafter” similarly mixes fantasy and a family drama about a precocious eight-year-old and her not-quite-there mother. The daughter is advised on how to cope with maman, whom she adores, by her pet talking owl.
The one-off, irrepressible, Quentin Dupieux (“Rubber,” “Wrong Cops”) also makes the MyFFF feature competition with police interrogation comedy “Keep An Eye Out,” boasting his hallmark melange of the surreal and retro vibes, such as a groovy ‘70s score.
Only two of MyFFF’s ten features in competition are directed by women directors: “Tomorrow and Thereafter” and “Angel Face,” another mother-daughter drama, from Vanessa Filho, which was selected for Cannes Un Certain Regard and stars Marion Cotillard as a white-trash alcoholic mother.
But more titles, made by feminist fellow-traveller men, are at least female-centric. Establishing director Fabien Gorgeart as a talent to track, Clotilde Hesme (“Regular Lovers”) plays a directionless women in “Diane Has the Right Shape,” where surrogate motherhood proves a maturing experience.
“Let the Girls Play,” Julien Hallard’s feature debut, a true-event-based tale of female empowerment, turns on the creation in 1969 of one of France’s first women’s soccer teams.
10.A DAMNING PORTRAIT OF MEN
Above all, the 10 features in MyFFF competition also paint an often despairing portrait of a world peopled by men who are monstrously egomaniacal (“Black Tide”), egocentric (“Guy”), crazed (“Keep An Eye Out”) or violent (“Sauvage”). In such a universe, women, however eccentric (“So Help Me God”), and especially when young, (“Tomorrow and Thereafter,” “Angel Face” ) represent the voice of reason and modernity (“Let the Girls Play”). Some films – “Fake Tattoos,” for instance – do not buy into this vision. Its general tenor is unlikely to be exclusive to French cinema.
Emilio Mayorga contributed to this article.
FEATURE FILM COMPETITION
“Angel Face” (“Gueule d’ange”), Vanessa Filho
“Black Tide” (“Fleuve Noir”), Erick Zonca
“Diane Has The Right Shape” (“Diane a les épaules”), Fabien Gorgeart
“Gaspard At The Wedding,” (“Gaspard Va au mariage”), Antony Cordier
“Guy,” Alex Lutz
“Keep An Eye Out” (“Au Poste!”), Quentin Dupieux
“Let The Girls Play” (“Comme des garçons”), Julien Hallard
“Sauvage,” Camille Vidal-Naquet
“So Help Me God” (“Ni juge, ni soumise”), Yves Hinant, Jean Libon
“Tomorrow And Thereafter” (“Demain et tous les autres jours”), Noémie Lvovsky
OUT OF COMPETITION:
“Les Faux tatouages” (“Fake Tattoos”), Pascal Plante
“Mauvais Sang” (“Bad Blood”), Leos Carax
SHORT FILM COMPETITION
“Chien Bleu” (“Blue Dog”), Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh
“Un Homme mon fils” (“A Man My Son”), Florent Gouëlou
“Judith Hotel,” Charlotte Le Bon
“Le Septième continent” (“The Seventh Continent”), Noé Debré
“Wild Love,” Paul Autric, Quentin Camus, Maryka Laudet, Léa Georges, Zoé Sottiaux, Corentin Yvergniaux
“La Collection” (“The Collection”), Emmanuel Blanchard
“Des Fleurs” (“Flowers”), Baptiste Petit-Gats
“À l’Aube” (“At Dawn”), Julien Trauman
“Les Petites mains” (“Little Hands”), Rémi Allier
“Personne ne s’aimera jamais comme on s’aime” (“There’s No Love Stronger Than Ours”), Laure Bourdon Zarader
OUT OF COMPETITION:
“Fauve,” Jérémy Comte
“Hybrids,” Florian Brauch, Kim Tailhades, Matthieu Pujol, Yohan Thireau, Romain Thirion
“La Jetée” (“The Pier”), Chris Marker
NEW HORIZONS (out of competition)
“Le Voyage intérieur de Gauguin,” Hayoun Kwon
“Words Hurt,” Romain Chassaing
“Le Bureau des légendes” (“The Bureau”), Éric Rochant (Season 1, Ep. 1 & 2)