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Dany Boon, Romain Duris, Omar Sy, Isabelle Huppert Take Centre Stage at 19th UniFrance Paris Rendez-Vous

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PARIS — Dany Boon’s “R.A.I.D. Special Unit,” Romain Duris-starrer’s “The Confession” and “Two is Family,” a slice of Omar Sy joie de vie, will screen at the 19th UniFrance Rendez-Vous With French Cinema.

The biggest national film market in the world, the 2017 edition, which runs Jan. 12-16 at Paris’ august Intercontinental Hotel, acts as a sales platform for France’s more commercial movies, many hitting theaters in the first part of 2017. Packing, moreover, some notable debuts and arthouse standouts, the Paris Rendez-Vous also highlights trends, talents and challenges in Europe’s biggest movie industry-come- arthouse-crossover export hub. Following, 10 things you should know about year’s edition.


Boon directs the Pathe-sold “R.A.I.D,” where he plays a misogynist elite police operative saddled with, of all indignities, a woman recruit (Alice Pol) who to boot is a rookie uber-klutz of course. 2014’s “Superchondriac,” Boon’s latest movie as a director, earned about $36 million in France, where “R.AI.D” bows Feb. 1 to, no doubt, a boffo opening. “Two is a Family” has Sy as as single dad stunt man in London, giving his young daughter a dream childhood. Of other star-laden titles, in crime caper “Family Heist,” Jean Reno (“Leon: the Professional”) plays a master-thief pulling a job in Courchevel, a luxury French ski resort. Inspired by Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Leon Morin, Priest,” forbidden love drama “The Confession” stars Marine Vacht (“Young and Beautiful”) as a woman who falls for an upright priest (Duris ,“The New Girlfriend”) in World War II France.


Pedro Almodovar broke through, on Madrid underground circuits at least, declaiming the dialogue of his shorts while standing next to the screen. Donning his cap as director of Lyon’s Institut Lumière, Thierry Fremaux will likewise provide live – and no doubt humor-laced – commentary at the Rendez-Vous for “Lumiére!” a collection of 98 shorts by Auguste and Louis Lumiére. A myth-busting initiative, “Lumiere!” sets out to demonstrate that the brothers not only invented cinema as a collective-audience experience but knew how to direct.


Well, almost. Opening with “Dalida,” from Lisa Azuelos, a noteworthy 35% of the 80 titles selected to screen in Paris are directed by women. And a clutch more – Stephane Brize’s “A Woman’s Life,” for instance – are notable films about women. Rendez-vous movies are put forward by sales agents given their market potential. “It’s good to see that films made by women are [thought to be] films for a market,” said Gilles Renouard, UniFrance co-deputy director. Nearly half (43%) of these movies are also first features, suggesting a sizeable number of new women directors now coming online in and outside France: Some of the most interesting debuts – Maysaloun Hamoud’s “In Between” and Lidia Terki’s “Paris La Blanche” – are set abroad, “In Between” in Tel Aviv – or focus on France from a foreigner’s point of view: such as that of the wife left behind in Algeria in Terki’s debut.


With no global juggernaut from EuropaCorp in 2016 (“Valerian” and the City of the Thousand Planets” bows July 14, 2017 in France), and no big international breakouts such as 2012’s “The Artist” and “The Intouchables” or 2015’s “The Little Prince,” total international B.O. for French movies in 2016 will have plunged when compared to 2015. Just how much UniFrance will announce at its traditional Rendez-Vous hosted annual export results press conference, held Jan. 13. One example: Over the first 11 months of 2016, only two films – EuropaCorp’s “Shut In,” mainly off its (low) U.S.-bow, and “The Little Prince” last January – sold over one million admissions outside France in a month – the rough equivalent of $4 million-$7 million in box office. And both did so in just one month of 2012. For lack of a big new entry, “The Little Prince,” the No. 2 best theatrical performer outside France in 2015, may rank No 1 in 2016, although it hit the year near the end of its international bows. Given that, on paper, French films’ annual box office abroad in 2016 will most probably be one of the lowest in a decade.


2015: €622.8 million ($656.4 million); 2014: €685.2 million ($722.2 million); 2013: €300.8 million ($317.0 million); 2012: €889.6 million ($937.6 million); 2011: €439.5 million ($463,2 million); 2010: €339.7 million ($358.0 million); 2009: €350.8 million ($369.7 million); 2008: €416.5 million ($438.9 million); 2007: €354.0 million ($373.1 million); 2006: €322.6 million ($340.0 million).

Source: UniFrance, €1=$1.045


But it only takes two titles to overturn a box office trend, or so industry lore has it. UniFrance’s 2016 box office results will be announced in Paris only two months after a report from France’s CNC film board, “The Export of French Films in 2015,” which announced that French sales agents’ revenues in 2015 were the highest ever recorded: €327.3 million. Over 2006-15, sales grew an average 2.7% per year. Again, EuropaCorp’s will have something to do with 2015 results. But there are fundamentals driving increased income as well: a diversification in markets with noted longterm upticks in the U.S., Latin America, South Korea and China; equally, a diversification in the kinds of films which get sold and sales deals achieved, with remake pacts growing in some territories and seemingly impossible-to-export local comedies opening abroad. At least 39 French movies look set to end 2016 having grossed over $1 million at foreign theaters. France’s No. 2 or No. 3 biggest hit abroad in 2016 looks like Kev Adams-starrer “The New Adventures of Aladdin,” thanks to a 4,000-screen (sic) 10-day run in China in November, which earned €2.3 million ($2.4 million). French exporters are eagerly anticipating the promised launch in 2017 of an artful circuit in China.


More kinds of French films are selling abroad as ambitious titles in different film strains get made. 2015 marked a coming of age for French animation exports. A notable clutch of genre movies and thrillers spangle the 2017 Rendez-vous lineup: Studiocanal’s “Alone,” from David Moreau (“IT Boy”), a noirish Apocalypse-set teen survival thriller; mob imbroglio drama “Money,” from Gela Bablouiani (“13 Tzameti”), which Sinology handles; on Versatile’s books, “Toril,” Laurent Tessier’s drug-pushing thriller set in the distinctive milieu of Provence; Thomas Kruithof’s political espionage-themed “The Eavesdropper,” sold by WTFilms; and Daouda Coulibaly’s “Wulu,” a Mali-set drug-smuggling white-knuckler, from Indie Sales. “African movies are normally arthouse, this is a real thriller, an African film like you’ve never seen before,” Renouard said.


Sales agents will also use the Rendez-Vous to talk up their projects and in-production titles. Whatever Wild Bunch’s (acknowledged) problems with distribution in France, relationships count hugely in movies and Wild Bunch’s 2017 French film sales slate, the first announced in the run-up to the Rendez-Vous, is still one of the strongest in the business. Among potential, newly-announced, highlights, which Wild Bunch will talk up or promo-reel at the Rendez-Vous: Christian Carrion’s “My Son,” a thriller with Guillaume Canet; and Senegal-set drama “WAO,” starring Omar Sy. They previously announced titles such as Michel Hazanavicius’ “Redoubtable” and Arnaud Desplechin’s “Ismael’s Ghosts.”


The greatest actress alive, according to Variety’s Peter Debruge, was in New York on Nov.28. accepting a Gotham Award, and talking up “Elle.” By Nov. 30, she was in Buenos Aires, attending Thierry Fremaux’s Cannes Film Week, and talking up “Elle.” By Dec. 4, she was at the Marrakech Festival, and still talking up “Elle.” She served as the patron of March’s New York Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Today and the French Film Festival in Japan in June. Like few stars on earth, Isabelle Huppert goes that extra 10,000 miles to promote the films she works in, and French cinema at large. Quite rightly, she receives a UniFrance French Cinema Award on Jan. 13 at the Rendez-Vous.


Boasting 49 market premieres and 32 first features among its 80 screenings, the Rendez-Vous is a market where titles can come out of pretty well nowhere to grab sales and box office. Dany Boon’s debut, comedy “Welcome to the Sticks,” screened at the 2008 Rendez-Vous before its world premiere, was viewed as a guilty pleasure by most distributors as they went about their serious business of buying art films. It went on to gross $162.4 million in France, and a robust $53.7 million abroad. Of new Rendez-Vous titles this year, there’s already a good buzz on Pigalle-set “Paris Prestige,” with Reda Kateb and Melanie Laurent, and rehabilitation ward-set “Patients,” from Fabien Marsaud (aka Grand Corps Malade). But the big, big question at this year’s Rendez-Vous, as every edition since 2008, is what could be France’s next big comedy breakout, as “The Intouchables” proved in 2012, with B.O. figures from its astounding first weekend in Germany breaking during the 2012 event.


For decades, Latin America has looked to France for inspiration. Now France is looking to Latin America. There may be no better indication at the Rendez-vous of the forces of globalisation at work reshaping France’s industry than that two high-profile French titles are remakes of Latin American hits. “Two is Family” relocates the Mexican-U.S.-set “Instructions Not Included” between Southern France and London; “An Indian Tale” reworks Ricardo Darin-starrer “Chinese Take-Out.” Inspiration doesn’t guarantee success. Starring Jean Dujardin as a height-challenged beau, “Un homme a la hauteur,” a French remake of Argentina’s “Corazon de leon,” performed discreetly for Gaumont last May. But with “Two is Family” tracking for at least $15 million-$18 million in France, one Rendez-Vous talking point will be if it could have any legs abroad. In a key acid test, Tobis bows “Two Is Family” in Germany on Jan. 5.


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