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NY The French are in town heating up snowy city


While winter continues to hold a grip on New York City just days away from the official start of Spring, the scent of optimism, passion and love is palpable, as the annual Rendez-Vous With French Cinema, an exquisite showcase of the finest films from la Belle France, begins this weekend at New York’s Lincoln Center.

New York has had a long love affair with French cinema. From the pre-war classics of Jean Renoir, Jean Vigo and Marcel Carne, the film noir oeuvres of Jean-Pierre Melville, and the revolutionary Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) cinema dynamite of provocateurs Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol, New York film critics and film buffs have remained enthusiastic about French cinema through several generations of film auteurs.

Now, just in time to heat up the frozen hearts of winter-weary New Yorkers, comes the annual French Film showcase, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, together with French film promotion agency Unifrance and the French Film Office USA (headed by chief French film advocate Catherine Verret).

For its tenth anniversary, the Rendez-Vous, has pulled out all the stops, bringing to New York not only a showcase of 17 new French films (including 12 US Premieres and 3 New York Premieres), but also a host of French film luminaries, including actress Catherine Deneuve and directors Olivier Assayas, Yvan Attal, Claire Denis, Benoit Jacquot, Bertrand Tavernier and Jean-Jacques Zilbermann. In all, 38 film industry professionals will attend the event, which is sponsored by Air France and French television channel TV5.

While other European cinemas have greatly reduced their industry output under the onslaught of the prolific Hollywood machine, French cinema has remained remarkably healthy. Not only do French films maintain the strongest market share of their local audiences in all of Europe, but they have been the most successful international imports as well.

In the United States, the largest international market for French films, In 2004, 40 French films were released in the United States, earning $73 million dollars at the box office and reflecting French cinema’s continuing appeal among discerning film audiences in the US. While films that stress sophisticated elegance and romance (France’s specialty, n’est-ce pas?) are always prized, a new generation of filmmakers are working in diverse genres that stress the prolific nature of French culture and the multicultural French society.

Second only to the US, French cinema boasts true star power, with actors that have a wide following among foreign film buffs. New Yorkers attending the French showcase will again be able to worship at the altars of such film icons as Catherine Deneuve, Daniel Auteuil, Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Frot, and Isabelle Huppert.

However, the Showcase also is about introducing new talents, and this year such new faces as Mathieu Demy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Isild Le Besco, Laura Smet, and Karin Viard are among the new generation of stars that are being introduced.

As far as directors are concerned, recognizable names in the program include such masters as Claude Chabrol, Bertrand Tavernier and Andre Techine. But the most excitement is swirling around the exceptional crop of debut filmmakers including François Favrat, Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Bernard Jeanjean, Alexandra Leclère, Olivier Marchal, Yolande Moreau, Gilles Porte, and Arnaud Viard, almost all of whom will be present for the screenings of their films at Lincoln Center’s prestigious Walter Reade Theater.

Descriptions of the films themselves, and interviews with key directors and actors, will be presented in future articles (look for them here over the next few days).

In addition to the Lincoln Center screenings that are the core of the event, several sidebar showcases will be held. Chief among them is the French Institute/Alliance Francaise Tribute to iconic actress Catherine Deneuve.

Ms. Deneuve, who is in town to promote her newest film with fellow Gallic giant Gerard Depardieu (Andre Techine’s Changing Times, which was presented in competition at last month’s Berlin Film Festival) is being feted this weekend with a special retrospective tribute which includes the screenings of her film classics Peau D’Ane (Donkey Skin, Jacques Demy), 8 Femmes (8 Women, Francois Ozon), Les Voleurs (Thieves, Andre Techine) and Place Vendome (directed by Nicole Garcia).

The French are in town, and despite the continued snowy gloom, one cannot ignore the faint whisper of Spring in the air….with its promise of renewal and romance.

Sandy Mandelberger
Industry Editor

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