French Films in Cannes Market

June 28, 2020
In the current COVID-19 climate, with fewer completed American films to buy, the French are set to have a field day in the international market. Here are five recently completed productions that are up for grabs.

SLALOM

Gorgeously filmed and set in the French Alps, Slalom makes you feel like you are taking that European trip you can’t under COVID-19. You feel that you are together with up-and-coming skier Lyz as she glides down the slippery slopes. Lyz, 15, has had to endure more than the rigours of training, as her coach is intent on seducing her, and like so many rising stars in any field she struggles to say no.

Slalom is an accomplished debut film by Charlene Favier, who draws on her own experience (though not specifically), as so many first timers do. She casts the talented young actress Noée Abita from her short film Odol Gorri, where she also focused on adolescence and the awakening of desire.

The ever-brave Belgian star Jeremie Renier, who plays the ex-champion turned coach, spent weeks on the ski fields for the role and looks mighty fit too. The consummate actor (who knows his way around a bedroom – he starred in Francois Ozon’s Double Lover) underplays the role in a convincing fashion and ultimately allows Abita to steal the show.

GAGARINE

Widely hailed as the break-out in the Cannes market, this debut film from writer-directors Fanny Liatard and Jeremy Trouilh can be seen as the flipside of Les Miserables, last year’s Cannes hit and the French Oscar nominee. We are again in outer Parisian housing projects but there is a sweeter tone as teen Youri faces the fact that his home is about to be blown up, making way for a far trendier neighbourhood.

As with Slalom, there is young talent on show with newcomer Alseny Bathily taking centre stage as Youri, who is fascinated by space exploration given that like himself, his building, Cite Gagarine, was named after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin who once visited the monumental tower block in 1963 and is seen in archival footage.

Despite his efforts to save it, Youri is ultimately alone in the asbestos-riddled building. Having devised his apartment to resemble a space capsule, the technically savvy 16-year-old has one last trick up his sleeve. The film was shot last summer against the backdrop of the actual demolition of the Cite Gagarine.

JOSEP

As you discover in this animated feature, Josep Bartoli was a little-known Spanish Franco-era newspaper cartoonist who is finally being given recognition. In 1939, he was one of 50,000 Spanish Republicans who crossed the Pyrenees to find refuge in France only to be placed in a concentration camp. He managed to flee to the US and Mexico where he befriended and worked with Frida Kahlo with whom he was more than just friends. The colour palette becomes vibrant during this period.

French animation has a very unique feel, as it owes as much to adult comic books (think Enki Bilal) and is mostly hand drawn. Having only recently discovered Bartoli, the film’s cartoonist director Aurel became determined to bring his work back to life and the animation is exceptional. He drew live online as he discussed the project during the Cannes market. Like Bartoli, he’s worked as a political cartoonist for a daily paper, Le Monde.

PARADISE

Tahiti-born Paris-educated Paul Manate returns to his homeland for his directing debut and it’s great to see Tahiti on screen. Drawing on local mythologies that captivated him in his youth, he focuses on two cousins, Teivi (Sebastien Urzendowsky), a handsome fast-living mixed race man who works for the government and Yasmina (Blanche-Neige Huri), a more traditional young Maori woman who is said to be a witch with the same powers as her late mother. She certainly possesses mystical powers that she uses to avenge wrongs and also beguiles young children with her tales of an ancient ogress called Hina who lived on the southern islands.

LOVE AFFAIR(S)

The French love to talk, and here writer-director Emmanuel Mouret (The Art of Love) has assembled a solid cast (Camelia Jordana, Emilie Dequenne, Niels Schneider and Vincent Macaigne) to ruminate about love, passion and fidelity in this contemporary love-triangle drama. The characters also of course have sex with their partners/spouses and with others they meet and fall for. Ultimately, it seems mandatory as to who will end up with whom. The film is set in an array of sumptuous homes and the lush French countryside, and it all seems like a very middle class problem. With overbearing orchestral music, the film harks back to Hollywood’s Golden Age and is probably one for French audiences only.

OTHERS I DIDN’T GET TO SEE (some, not be completed)

*Miss follows a character played by androgynous model Alexandre Wetter who sets his heart on winning the Miss France contest. Directed by French-Portuguese actor-director Ruben Alves. This one has been selling well.

*Carine Tardieu’s romantic drama The Young Lovers stars Fanny Ardant opposite Melvil Poupaud as a 70-year-old woman who embarks on an affair with a married doctor 25 years her junior. Yes, Ardant still has it at 70!

*Totem Films, founded by leading French sales agents Bérénice Vincent, Agathe Valentin and Laure Parleani in 2018, announced a slate of documentaries committed to fresh bold diverse perspectives.

Pictured (from left to right): Alice Diop, Iris Brey, Nasima Akhter, Aude Pépin

THE FEMALE GAZE – A Revolution Named Desire
Through clips, archival materials and testimony from contemporary filmmakers, the film aims to create a new history of cinema through the female gaze.

THE MOST FEARLESS by Heather Kessinger tells the story of 2- year-old Nasima and her inspirational struggle to break a cycle of poverty, sexually motivated violence and prejudice in Bangladesh to become a high-level competitive surfer.

A LA VIE (working title) by Aude Pépin focuses on 70-year old Chantal Birman, a militant, feminist, pro-choice midwife working in the Parisian suburbs. It’s a road movie following Chantal on the frontlines of birth, as she supports her district’s diverse new mothers in a multitude of ways.

WE Presenting several stories along the way, the film follows the urban train link, the RER B, which crosses Paris and its outskirts from north to south, extending through numerous neighbourhoods. Born and raised in Aulnay-sous-Bois, director Alice Diop questions contemporary French society and its cultural diversity.

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