Rendez-Vous with French Cinema: Women Directors Flouish

Rendez-Vous with French Cinema: Women Directors Flouish
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Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, a popular film series at Lincoln Center, was particularly robust this year. Following upon the American Academy Awards season, Rendez-vous was especially refreshing with so many films directed by women. In general, the French film industry seems less mired in obsessions with political diversity, and P.C. poses. Men and women act in one another's films with such fluidity, it is hard to label any one filmmaker as simply director, actor, or writer. How do you get a movie made? Well, the process starts with a good script. Julie Delpy's Lolo, Alice Winocour's Disorder, Emmanuelle Bercot's Standing Tall, and Maiwenn's My King were all scripted and directed by these talented women. Bercot starred in Maiwenn's feature. And Alice Winocour co-wrote Deniz Gamze Erguven's Mustang, one of this year's Best Foreign Language Oscar contenders. Of the full-length fiction features, Mustang's was the only woman director. During Rendez-vous, which ended last night, I had an opportunity to speak to several filmmakers about their work, and the challenges of making film in France. Great news: these films are all coming to a theater near you.

Julie Delpy's comedy, Lolo opened this weekend to strong reviews. This actor/writer/director is well-known to American audiences, notably for Two Days in New York which starred Chris Rock as the straight man to utter eccentrics.

The discussion [about women] has started and it needs to evolve. Twenty years ago there were fewer women directing in France. Maybe it is something very simple. French directors are not so manly and not so tough. For a woman to be a director, she does not have to prove that she is a general. In the early days of filmmaking many were women. I don't know why we remember so few of them. My film was not hard to fund. I wrote a comedy and I wanted to make it more visual than my Two Days, which has a more indie vibe. I wanted to make a film that is glossier, bright and colorful. The hardest part was to make the farce believable, comedy balanced with reality. People read the screenplay. A lot of people wanted to make the film. I cannot say it was hard to put together. It works pretty easily in France. You write a comedy. You go to France Television. You go to Canal Plus. It either works, or not but you know right away. If yes, they put the money down. You are done.

Alice Winocour's Disorder, an on the edge-of-your-seat thriller starring Matthias Shoenarts as Vincent, a veteran of the Afghanistan war with PTSD, and Diane Kruger as Jessie, wife to a wealthy arms dealer, will open in late spring.

It's a strange love story: Jessie has a strange intimacy with Vincent. It was not hard to fund this film because people liked the script, and were excited about seeing Matthias. We are lucky in France. A whole generation of women comes from cinema school, many from the scriptwriting department. And, many great filmmakers have fought for us, Chantal Akerman, Catherine Deneuve. We have to be thankful to those women, and keep fighting. You have to be vigilant. Still, when I showed my film in Cannes, some were surprised at its violence. I thought that was a very boring comment. I did not make the film as a woman. There should be no boundaries for a woman director. We can make any type of film. My film is told from Vincent's point of view, not Jessie's. I loved the idea of filming her as a trophy wife, and him as an object of desire, and complex too.

Emmanuelle Bercot's Standing Tall stars Catherine Deneuve as a judge, dealing with difficult children. The film, the opening night in Cannes, 2015, opens in NY and LA on April 1.

We look at the US as open and tolerant, so the obstacles put in the way of women making films are completely incomprehensible to us. Catherine Deneuve is a great collaborator, my favorite actress to work with. She continues to inspire me. An amazing partner in filmmaking, she makes herself part of your film she works hand in hand with you. She has enormous respect for directors, not at all a diva. The hardest part of making my film was finding the actor for the boy. Rod Paradot. I could not find an actor close to that character. I had a hard time bringing him to the point of being wild and out of control like that character. (He won 2 Cesar Awards.) I met kids who had been abandoned. I wanted to write about them, and the people who took care of them.

Emmanuelle Bercot also won Best Actress at Cannes, 2015, for her role in Maiwenn's My King. She stars opposite an irresistible Vincent Cassell, in an abusive relationship. Maiwenn, a well-known actor in France, said she had wanted to make this movie before she made three others as a writer/director, but felt she was not strong enough. Louis Garrell has a key role. He came to Rendez-vous with his own film, Two Friends, and was so informal with Maiwenn at the Q&A after hers screened, he mimicked the way she talked. Then the announcement came: My King had just acquired an American distributor, and will have a July 15 release.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.

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