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New Montreal Festival first edition: Lights, camera, action!

The rehearsals are over. The inaugural edition of the New Montreal Montreal FilmFest is unspooling its first films to eager audiences. And the red carpet has been laid out to welcome its first guests... The opening of a new edition of any film festival is always filled with a mixture of hope, anticipation and anxiety. The launch of a brand new film festival, an event that wasn't even on the drawing board a year ago, quadruples these feelings. It would be dishonest to pretend that the NMFF is a finished product. As the Festival's artistic director Moritz de Hadeln has put it, "The first edition, limited to eight days, is in the language of the film labs, a sort of 'proof print' which will no doubt need further adjustment, the way a film's contrast and colour are corrected." But miracles of programming and logistics have been accomplished and a new star has been born in the firmament of international film festivals.
Welcome to Montreal
The man who performed many of these miracles, de Hadeln was at the airport personally yesterday afternoon to greet some of his VIP guests, including jury president Claude Lelouch, French director Michel Deville, who is being honoured by the Festival with an Iris Hommage and a retrospective of his work, and Czech jury member Eva Zaoralova. The first two showed up to claim their baggage but Zaoralova seemed to be missing. After a half hour the mystery was solved. The director of the Karlovy Vary festival in the Czech Republic, one of Europe's oldest and most prestigious, Zaoralova had been detoured to pass a more thorough examination by Canadian Immigration officials. "You'd think she was about to request political asylum," quips de Hadeln with a small smile.
Anticipation and
High Spirits!
Despite the hitches and pressures, de Hadeln is happy to be able at last to give the filmgoers their say. "The program has an interesting mixture of films," he explains. "There are major productions, and there are a lot of first and second features. What I hope is that people will be curious. There is a lot here to be discovered."
Sequel or not to sequel?
When French director Cédric Klapisch, whose latest film The Russian Dolls launches the Festival tonight, released L'auberge espagnole in 2002, he already had a few critical and popular hits under his belt, including Chacun cherche son chat (1996, When the Cat's Away), Un air de famille (1996) and Peut-être (1999, Maybe), but the runaway success of his new film – 3 million tickets in France alone, and immediate international attention – was nothing he had experienced before. So a sequel was in the cards from the start, right? Not necessarily. "After L'auberge espagnole was released, I said I would definitely not do a sequel. It took quite a while for me to come around to the possibility that it might be a good idea."
What made him change his mind? First of all the actors. "I had an urge to work again with Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Cécile de France, Kelly Reilly and Kevin Bishop… We were not only colleagues; we had become friends… And then I wanted to repeat the pleasure I had shooting L'auberge espagnole, a pleasure I had not quite experienced before… Maybe I had mistakenly believed that where there was no pain there couldn't be quality." Instead, Klapisch discovered that the opposite was true, that the more pleasure he had in making the film, the better it became.
And who says that promoting a film doesn't pay artistic dividends? Not Klapisch. The idea for The Russian Dolls came to him when he was doing publicity for L'auberge espagnole in St. Petersburg. "It was the third time I'd been there and I really fell in love with the city. I knew then and there that if there was to be a sequel it would have to be set in St. Petersburg."
Another hat for Lelouch
Director Claude Lelouch has a career-long experience with wearing multiple hats. He was his own producer right from the start, founding his famous production company Les Films 13, just after being discharged from compulsory military service. It was for Films 13 that he made his first feature, Le propre de l'homme, in 1960, and he hasn't looked back. Along the way he has added cinematographer, screenwriter, editor and even actor to his job description. And, one might add, uncredited ambassador to the filmgoing public. Is there another filmmaker of his stature who has less hesitation to interact with audiences and critics than Claude Lelouch?
He is wearing at least two hats at the New Montreal FilmFest – director of Le courage d'aimer (The Courage to Love), which is getting its transatlantic premiere in Montreal, and president of the Festival's very first international jury. In reverse order of importance, according to Lelouch. "My first priority is my responsibility to the jury," he insists. But he is also eager to show his latest film locally. The genesis of Le courage d'aimer was in a projected trilogy inspired by Victor Hugo's assertion that "the human race is one big collective individual". After releasing the first two parts – The Parisians and Men and Women – Lelouch, dissatisfied with the results, decided to withdraw the films and create an entirely new one, pared down and totally re-edited. The result has been remarkably successful, gathering at once critical praise and excellent box office. Buoyed by this success, Lelouch is looking forward having his film released across North America.

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