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Playtime Dives Into Different Waves of French Comedy (EXCLUSIVE)

Playtime Unveils Three New French Comedies
©2018 - Yaha Abdullah - Epithète Films

Playtime, the Paris-based co-production and sales company which will be presenting Francois Ozon’s anticipated “By the Grace of God” in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, has acquired three offbeat French comedies: Geraldine Nakache’s “I’ll Go Where You Go,” “The Bare Necessity” with Fanny Ardant, and Valerie Donzelli’s “Our Lady of Paris.”

“Our Lady of Paris” marks Donzelli’s fifth feature film, following “Marguerite & Julien,” which competed at the Cannes Film Festival; “Hand in Hand”; “Declaration of War,” which played at Cannes’ Critics’ Week and earned six Cesar nominations; and “Queen of Hearts.”

Donzelli stars in the film as Maud Crayon, a failing architect and single mom of two who unexpectedly wins the contest to spearhead the renovation of the esplanade of Notre-Dame de Paris, and who has to deal with a pair of exes – both of whom she still has feelings for.

Written by Donzelli and Benjamin Charbit (“The Trouble With You”), “Our Lady of Paris” is produced by Alice Girard and Edouard Weil at Rectangle Production. Donzelli stars in the film opposite Pierre Deladonchamps (“Stranger by the Lake”), Thomas Scimeca, Bouli Lanners and Virginie Ledoyen.

Playtime co-founder Nicolas Brigaud-Robert said that “Our Lady of Paris” illustrated the kind of comedies that the company is going for these days. “It’s drama-comedy that’s sharply written and will surely strike a chord in adults because it deals with professional, sentimental struggles in a vein that reminds us sometimes of a female Woody Allen, and it also boasts Donzelli’s signature style and brand of burlesque humor,” said Brigaud-Robert, adding that “The Bare Necessity” is also meant for an adult audience, and “I’ll Go Where You Go” is a concept comedy.

“The Bare Necessity” marks the feature debut of Erwan Le Duc, who has directed several shorts, including “Le Soldat Vierge,” which played at Cannes’ Critics’ Week. The film revolves around the unlikely encounter between two people in the Vosges, and it stars Ardant (“8 Women”) and Swann Arlaud (“Bloody Milk”).

The movie is produced by Stéphanie Bermann and Alexis Dulguerian at Domino Films, whose credits include Hubert Charuel’s feature debut “Bloody Milk,” which played at Cannes’ Critics’ Week and won three Cesar awards.

“The Bare Necessity” will be released in France by Pyramide, while “Our Lady of Paris” will be released by Ad Vitam.

“I’ll Go Where You Go” stars Bekhti and Nakache as Vali and Mina, two sisters who are polar opposites and have been pushed apart by life’s trials, but are forced to come together over a weekend in Paris. Vali, an aspiring singer, has an audition in the French capital, and Mina has reluctantly agreed to accompany her, despite her contempt for her sister’s passion.

The heartwarming comedy is produced by two high-profile production banners, Nord-Ouest Films and Mars Cinema. An actress-turned-writer/director, Nakache made her feature debut with “All That Glitters,” in which she also starred opposite Bekhti. The movie was a commercial and critical hit, earning Bekhti a Cesar for best newcomer.

“It’s a well-polished comedy, truly funny and refreshing,” said Brigaud-Robert. “Two sisters reunite to win a Celine Dion singing contest.”

He noted that all three films are backed by producers with a proven track record, some of which have collaborated before: Rectangle Productions (“Frontier of Dawn”), Nord-Ouest Films (“Joyeux Noel”) and Mars Cinema (“Double Lover”).

Although Playtime has a large offer of French films, “we don’t pay much attention to the nationality of movies we do – we have movies from Atom Egoyan, Laszlo Nemes, etc. – but it turns out that France produces many films and the quality is often good,” Brigaud-Robert said.

At the UniFrance Rendez-Vous, Playtime will be hosting the world premiere of Emmanuel Hamon’s thriller “Escape From Raqqa” and a market screening of Hiner Saleem’s comedy “Who Killed Lady Winsley?”

“Escape From Raqqa” follows the extraordinary true story of a young Parisian woman, Faustine, who runs away from home with her 5-year old son, leaving behind her shocked husband, to join ISIS in Syria. After arriving in Raqqa, Faustine quickly realizes the hell she has gotten herself into and embarks on a perilous escape with the help of her husband, Sylvain, and a few friends. Set to be released in France by 20th Century Fox and Pépites Films on March 6, the movie stars Arlaud, Finnegan Oldfield and Charles Berling.

Playtime will attend the Berlin Film Festival with “By the Grace of God” and Safy Nebbou’s “Who You Think I Am” with Juliette Binoche, the president of the Berlin jury, playing out of competition.

“By the Grace of God” is the only French movie set for the competition and one that will surely spark debate. The film revolves around the real-life sexual abuse scandal surrounding a French priest and is told from perspective of survivors and their families.

Playtime ranked as 2018’s top independent (non-vertically integrated) French sales company, according to UniFrance.