10 Directors to Watch: French Satirist Nicolas Bedos Flexes His Wit With ‘La Belle Époque’

In French, the name Bedos carries a certain reputation. The son of beloved local comedian Guy Bedos, Nicolas always knew he wanted to make movies, but just because he had a famous father didn’t mean the path was necessarily easy. Despite collaborating with dad early on, and writing several original plays in his mid-20s, it wasn’t until Bedos achieved his own celebrity that he found the opportunity to direct.

“The French first came to know me as a satirist,” says the now-40-year-old Bedos, who made his reputation as an ultra-sarcastic (and occasionally controversial) cultural commentator on a popular weekly talk show. “I think it was truly a gift from heaven that I wasn’t able to make movies that early.”

At 20, his taste wasn’t fully formed, but influenced more by what others looked up to — the French New Wave, snobbish auteur cinema — which, with a bit of life experience, he outgrew, gravitating instead to popcorn movies and Hollywood films by directors such as Sydney Pollack, Paul Thomas Anderson and the Coen brothers. “I try to make the kind of movies that I want to watch,” he says.

Bedos’ first two features as writer-director — the rowdy, decades-spanning romance “Mr. & Mrs. Adelman” and high-concept, Charlie Kaufman-esque “La Belle Époque” — synthesize an incredibly polished American filmmaking style (in terms of lighting, camerawork and technique), a slightly more English sense of plotting and unmistakably French dialogue. Bedos appeared in the former, alongside partner and muse Doria Tillier, though he’d prefer to focus on working behind the camera.

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Whereas his natural tendency is to be dark and somber (compelled to address subjects like sexual passion, depression, suicide, addiction, and so on), Bedos’ time on TV and radio pushed him to embrace humor in his writing. By extension, his onscreen persona made him a fitting choice to direct the next “OSS 117” movie, a 007-esque spy parody starring Jean Dujardin as a cocky, outdatedly chauvinistic secret agent.

“He’s the only character in France who’s still politically incorrect,” says Bedos, who’s having fun with the assignment, but sees it as a parenthesis between more personal projects, including the upcoming “Mascarade.” “Cinema moves too slowly! I wish they’d invent a machine that would allow you to make a film in three weeks.”

Agency: Grégory Weill, Adéquat

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