“Men and Women” to Premiere at Ninth City of Lights, City of Angels Festival
by Brian Brooks
Writer/director Claude Lelouch will be in Los Angeles April 11 for the world premiere of his latest comedy/drama of intertwined stories about love, marriage, success and death, “Men and Women,” opening the ninth annual City of Lights, City of Angels Film Festival, spotlighting French film over seven days. Also on tap for this year’s COL-COA, is the west coast premiere of writer/director Bertrand Tavernier‘s drama on child trafficking, “Holy Lola,” while the U.S. premiere of “The Ax” (Le Couperet) by Costa Gavras will close the event April 16. Both Tavernier and Gavras will participate in Q&As following their screenings.
“We are very pleased with the growing importance of COL-COA in Hollywood,” commented festival director Claudia Durgnat and programmer François Truffart in a joint statement. “There are a number of additions to the program and truly something special for everyone, from thrillers, comedies, dark comedies, adventure, sports, family dramas, short features, a documentary, and special events.” The festival will host nine U.S. premieres, including six features from first time directors, and all screenings will take place at the Directors Guild of America.
[The following is a list of films screening in the City of Lights, City of Angels Festival with descriptions provided by the event.]
“The Light” (L’Équipier)
Directed by: Philippe Lioret, Written by: Philippe Lioret, Emmanuel Courcol, and Christian Sinniger.
An epic, dramatic love story set in the rough and peculiar milieu of Ouessant, a remote island off the coast of Brittany, “l’Équipier” is a film about a close-knit community of lighthouse keepers shattered by the arrival of a stranger. Starring Sandrine Bonnaire (“Vagabond,” “Under Satan’s Sun,” “A Judgment in Stone”), Philippe Torreton (“It All Starts Today,” “Captain Conan”), Grégori Derangère (“Bon Voyage”), and Emilie Dequenne (“Rosetta,” “Brotherhood of the Wolf”), the film was nominated twice for the 2005 César: Philippe Torreton for Best Actor, Nicola Piovani (“Life is Beautiful”) for Best Score.
“The Story of My Life” (Mensonges et Trahisons, et Plus Si Affinité)
Directed by: Laurent Tirard, Written by: Laurent Tirard and Grégoire Vigneron.
One of the most successful comedies of the year in France, it is the story of Raphaël (Édouard Baer), a frustrated celebrity ghostwriter writing the autobiography of a soccer player while dreaming of being an acclaimed novelist. Clovis Cornillac was awarded the César for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Kevin, a soccer superstar with an enormous ego and a very low IQ. Alice Taglioni (“The Barbarian Invasions,” “Ararat”), plays Claire, Kevin’s girlfriend and Raphaël’s former college flame.
Directed by: Bertrand Tavernier, Written by: Tiffany Tavernier, Dominique Sampiero, and Bertrand Tavernier.
Pierre (Jacques Gamblin) and Géraldine (Isabelle Carré) cannot have children. Determined to adopt, they travel to Southeast Asia, where they confront emotional and physical obstacles as they face French and Cambodian authorities, corruption and child trafficking in their quest to adopt a baby.
“Venus & Fleur”
Written and directed by: Emmanuel Mouret.
Fleur (Isabelle Pires) is a young and shy Parisian vacationing in the south of France. She meets Venus (Veroushka Knoge), a Russian girl who is just as extraverted and extravagant as Fleur is reserved. Although they have nothing in common, they are both on a quest to meet the ideal man, and they become friends. The influence of Éric Rohmer is very much present in the images and dialogues of this “Claire’s Knee” meets “My Night at Maud”‘s vacation romance, starring two charming new actresses.
“10th District Court” (10ème Chambre, Instants d’Audience)
Directed by: Raymond Depardon.
It is forbidden by law to film what goes on behind the doors of a French tribunal. An unprecedented exception was made for award-winning filmmaker and journalist Raymond Depardon, who was allowed to bring his camera crew to film the hearings at the 10th district court in Paris, from May to July 2003. An extraordinary look at the French judicial system, this “citizen documentary” presents twelve stories of ordinary individuals facing a French judge.
“The First Time I Was Twenty” (La Première Fois que J’ai Eu 20 Ans)
Written and directed by: Lorraine Lévy, Based on a book by: Susie Morgenstern.
Sixteen-year old Hannah (Marilou Berry) lives in the 1960s Parisian Suburbs. Although she is very intelligent, she isn’t very popular with boys. When she is accepted in the high-school jazz-band (her dream come true), she thinks things will get better. However, gender barriers and prejudice seem to be hard to overcome in this all-male environment. Based on a novel by Susie Morgenstern, an American expatriate, this first film by writer/director Lorraine Levy is the upbeat story of an underdog establishing her place in a hostile environment.
“Men and Women”
Directed by: Claude Lelouch, Written by: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven.
Parallel stories are intertwined in this film about love, marriage, success, and death: Massimo (Massimo Ranieri) and Shaa (Maïwenn), two street singers in love, are tragically separated by success; identical twin sisters (Mathilde Seigner) are trying to successfully live apart from one another; Mr. Gorkini (Michel Leeb), a successful, yet uneducated, businessman who sells pizza, seeks happiness in an unlikely marriage with Sabine (Arielle Dombasle), a sophisticated aristocrat. A classic Lelouch epic, in the vein of “Bolero” or “Les Misérables,” “Men and Women” is, in the words of Lelouch, “the tale of ordinary people to whom extraordinary things happen.” It is a combination of the 1st and 2nd films of a trilogy called Humankind.
Directed by: Stéphanie Murat, Written by: Stéphanie Murat and Gilles Laurent.
30-year old Victoire (Sylvie Testud) is bored and annoyed at everyone who surrounds her: her apathetic cleaning lady, her nymphomaniac mother (Mylène Demongeot), her selfish father (Pierre Arditi), racist taxi-drivers, old women and their dogs. Overhearing a conversation in a bar between two hunters, she has an epiphany… One of the most sought-after actresses in France and Europe, Sylvie Testud (César for Best Actress in 2004) has worked with such acclaimed directors as Chantal Ackerman and Alain Corneau. She delivers a captivating performance in this dark comedy about a very ordinary girl who becomes a serial killer.
“36” (36, Quai des Orfèvres)
Directed by: Olivier Marchal, Written by: Olivier Marchal, Franck Mancuso, Julien Rappeneau, with the collaboration of Dominique Loiseau Léo.
Vrinks (Daniel Auteuil), head of the Anti-Gang Squad, and Denis Klein (Gérard Depardieu), head of the Organized Crime Unit, work together to arrest a violent gang of armored truck robbers, while competing to replace Robert Mancini (André Dussollier), the retiring Chief of Police. Influenced by Jean-Perre Melville and the thrillers of Michael Mann, Olivier Marchal revisits the French Film Noir with this adaptation of a true story. The man who inspired the film, Dominique Loiseau, also collaborated on the script.
Directed by: Jean-Paul Salomé, Written by: Jean-Paul Salomé and Laurent Vachaud, Based on a book by: Maurice Leblanc.
Based on the eponymous character in Maurice Leblanc’s novels, Arsène Lupin (Romain Duris) is a classy “gentleman thief,” operating in the aristocratic circles of fin de siècle Paris. He finds himself caught up in a sordid political intrigue, as he gets involved with the dangerous and seductive Countess of Cagliostro (Kristin Scott Thomas). With its lavish décor and costumes, special effects and sense of intrigue, Arsène Lupin is a mélange of “Harry Potter,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “The Da Vinci Code.” The film was a commercial success in France, attracting both teens and adults.
Written and directed by: Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern.
Ben and Gus (Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern), two neighbors who detest each other, are crushed by a tractor during an argument. Paralyzed for life, they decide to travel to Finland in their wheel chairs to find Aaltra, the manufacturer of the tractor. Featuring a cast of famous Belgians, such as Benoît Poelvoorde (“Man Bites Dog”) and Noël Godin (pie-thrower extraordinaire), Aaltra pays homage to the films of Finnish master Aki Kaurismäki (who appears in the film). As surreal as a David Lynch film, it is also reminiscent of Wim Wenders. Aaltra is produced by the team who was behind cult-film “Man Bites Dog.”
Directed by: Didier Poiraud and Thierry Poiraud, Written by: Jean-Philippe Dugand, Didier Poiraud, Thierry Poiraud, Vincent Tavier, Marie Garel-Weiss.
Stuntman James Bataille (Jason Flemyng) is in love with Concia (Vanessa Paradis), a wannabe country singer. To impress her during the regional fair, he attempts (and fails) a motorcycle stunt, destroying the local bar. As he is incarcerated for 133 years, Concia meets a shady producer, Allan Chiasse (Benoît Poelvoorde). Shortly thereafter, aliens descend on the town… Written and adapted by the Poiraud brothers from their own comic books, “Atomik Circus” is a surreal, absurdist tale starring French singer Vanessa Paradis (“Girl on the Bridge”), Jason Flemyng (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”) and Benoît Poelvoorde (“Man Bites Dog”).
“The Last Trapper” (Le Dernier Trappeur)
Written and directed by Nicolas Vanier.
A mix of documentary and fiction, “The Last Trapper” is the story of Norman Winther and his wife May Loo, who play their own roles in the film. They live in a complete isolation in the Yukon, hunting grizzlies and wolves. The last representatives of a way of life almost instinct, they are uninterested in modern commodities, and determined to remain true to their tradition. A poetic ode to ecology and the protection of the environment, the majestic landscapes of “The Last Trapper” were filmed in very harsh conditions, reflecting Nicolas Vanier’s lifetime commitment to the Great North. “The Last Trapper” was a popular success in France.
“Me and My Sister” (Les Surs Fâchées)
Written and directed by: Alexandra Leclère
Martine (Isabelle Huppert) reluctantly agrees to a brief visit from her sister, Louise (Catherine Frot). Martine is a sophisticated, yet jaded, bored and unhappy Parisian, while Louise is provincial, happy, enthusiastic and active. A beautician by trade, Louise has written a novel and has been unexpectedly granted an appointment with a leading publisher in Paris. In three days, the spectacle of her sister’s happiness shatters Martine’s bourgeois universe. “Me and My Sister” is Alexandra Leclère’s first feature film and was inspired by her short film “Bouche à Bouche,” screened at COL-COA in 2004. Isabelle Huppert (“Loulou,” “Clean Slate,” “Madame Bovary,” “The Piano Teacher”) adds a new comic dimension to her acclaimed work in this portrait of two antithetical women, in which she faces Catherine Frot, (“The Dinner Game”) one of the most successful comic actresses in France.
Directed by: Xavier Durringer, Written by: Véra Belmont, Xavier Durringer, Dida Diafat, François Greze, and Christophe Mordellet, Based on a book by: Dida Diafat.
In jail for robbery, Ryan (Dida Diafat) meets Jean (Bernard Giraudeau), a former boxing champion who teaches him Thai Boxing. Ryan goes to Thailand to enroll in a professional boxing school and overcomes numerous obstacles to achieve his dream: to become a World Champion. “Chok-Dee” tells the true story of Dida Diafat, a delinquent inner city youth who became a Thai-Boxing World Champion. Dida Diafat co-wrote the script, based on his autobiography, and plays his own role in the film.
“The Ax” (Le Couperet)
Directed by Costa-Gavras, Written by Costa-Gavras, Jean-Claude Grumberg, Based on a novel by: Donald Westlake.
Bruno (José Garcia), a senior executive, is laid off after fifteen years in the company. Three years later, he is still unemployed and he is ready to do anything to find a job and secure his family’s future, including wiping out his “rivals” to get the job he deserves. Costa-Gavras returns to the thriller as a vehicle for his socio-political commentary, an adaptation of a novel by American mystery writer Donald Westlake. Released in France early March, “The Ax” is already #2 at the Box Office.
“Just Friends” (Je Préfère qu’On Reste Amis)
Written and directed by: Éric Toledano, Olivier Nakache.
Claude Mendelbaum (Jean-Paul Rouve) is a middle-aged man, too shy and ordinary to be successful with ladies. After being divorced for two years and without companionship, he realizes he cannot bear it any longer. He embarks on a quest to find the woman, with the help of Serge (Gérard Depardieu), a man who isn’t afraid of anything, even ridicule. Starring Gérard Depardieu and Jean-Paul Rouve (“Podium,” “A Very Long Engagement”), this buddy-movie à la Francis Veber (“The Dinner Game”), reminiscent of 1970s Italian comedies, is the first film by the writer-director team. It was conceived from their vivid memories of the many women who had left them, saying “You are like a brother to me” or “I just want to be friends.”