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Locarno: Films Boutique Handling Denis Côté’s ‘A Skin So Soft,’ Samuel Benchétrit’s’Dog’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Variety logo Variety 7/13/2017 John Hopewell
© Provided by Variety

Having represented the most talked-up title at this year’s Karlovy Vary, Berlin-based Films Boutique will hail into Locarno, Europe’s biggest summer festival, with two unannounced titles on its books: “Dog,” the latest from French auteur Samuel Benchetrit (“Macadam Stories”), and “A Skin So Soft,” from Canada’s Denis Côté.

A consistent festival prize winner in a short but prolific career, directing nine feature-length movies from 2005, Côté is best known for “Vic + Flo Saw a Bear,” which won the Alfred Bauer prize for opening up new perspectives at the 2015 Berlinale.

But more than any other festival, Côté’s career has turned around Locarno where a Golden Leopard for best video in 2005 allowed him to give quit his day job. 2008’s “All That She Wants” and 2010’s “Curling” both won best directing at Locarno.

Côté returns to the Swiss festival this year with “A Skin So Soft,” about a group of what is termed “modern-day gladiators,” high-level body builders, a strongman and an ex-champion-turned-trainer who spend much of their time at the gym, pursue extreme diets and all have a common goal, the film’s synopsis reads: “Overcoming the limits of their bodies.” “‘A Skin So Soft’ is an “open exploration of the regimented daily lives of these misunderstood monsters,” it continues.

Playing Piazza Grande, often the sign of a crowd-pleaser, “Dog” will be distributed in France by Paradis Films, the new distribution label of former Océans owner Eric Heumann.

Geneva-based Adok Films, launched by José Michel Buhler, the former Agora Films founder, has acquired distribution rights to Switzerland.

Starring actor-play director Vincent Maccaigne (“Eden”), singer-thesp Vanessa Paradis (“Heartbreaker,” “Café de Flore”) and Belgian Berlin and Cannes prize winning actor-director Bouli Lanners (“Eldorado,” “The Giants,” “The First, The Last”), “Dog” marks the sixth feature of a director noted for his top-notch casts, deadpan humor and loopy dialogue.

It adapts Benchétrit’s own novel in a film about “the fall of an individual,” told with “humor and self-mockery,” its synopsis runs, turning on Jacques Blanchot, who just lost everything:  his wife, his son, his house, his work. Abandoned, he is taken in by a zealous pet  shop owner  who, unable to see him as a friend, offers to train him as his dog.

Produced by Julien Madon, who backed “Macadam Stories,” Lisa Azuelos’ “Dalida” and Julien Leclerq’s “The Crew,” “Dog” signals Benchétrit’s return to Locarno after “I Always Wanted To Be a Gangster,” another Locarno Piazza Grande player that won a best screenplay plaudit at the 2007 Sundance Festival.

The Locarno Film Festival runs Aug. 2-12.

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