At the Rendez-Vous With French Cinema luncheon on Park Avenue in New York, attended by the Executive Director of uniFrance, Isabelle Giordano; Russell Banks, uniFrance’s American ambassador for the festival; Sophie Fillières and Agathe Bonitzer (La Belle Et La Belle); Emmanuel Mouret (Lady J aka Mademoiselle De Joncquières); Hélène Fillières (Raising Colors); Pierre Salvadori and Pio Marmaï (The Trouble With You); Eva Husson (Girls Of The Sun); Judith Davis (Whatever Happened To My Revolution), and Mikhaël Hers (Amanda), I spoke with the President of uniFrance, Serge Toubiana, who was elected in 2017, replacing Jean-Paul Salomé.
Anne-Katrin Titze: This is your second edition of Rendez-Vous With French Cinema.
The Sweet Hereafter author Russell Banks and The Trouble With You director Pierre Salvadori Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Serge Toubiana: For me, yeah.
AKT: What can you tell me about this one, the 24th edition? Is there something that unites the films?
ST: I don't know. It started very well with the Pierre Salvadori movie The Trouble with You. I think the audience liked the movie - we got many good messages on the film. And today it's a new day. I think it starts very well.
AKT: Is it lighter? It seems that way to me.
ST: Oh, yeah, there's a lot of comedies.
AKT: Comedies, yes. Are you involved at all in choosing the selection?
ST: No. Dennis [Lim] made the choice with Florence Almozini [of the Film Society of Lincoln Center]. And we may consult, me and Isabelle [Giordano]. We can make some suggestions.
AKT: And did you?
ST: For instance Le grand bain. We added Le grand bain [César Best Supporting Actor went to Philippe Katerine] in the selection because I think it's important but the film has no distributor in the US. It's a big comedy, large success in France. But they made good choices. They knew very well how the audience of New York can receive a movie.
AKT: I am very much looking forward to seeing the new Bruno Dumont creation, Coincoin And The Extra-Humans.
Rendez-Vous With French Cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
ST: Yes of course, Bruno Dumont.
AKT: The follow-up to Li'l Quinquin.
ST: Yes, and also Amanda. Did you see Amanda? Mikhaël Hers?
AKT: Oh, yes.
ST: It's good.
AKT: Yes, it's good.
ST: And the film of Sophie Fillières [When Margaux Meets Margaux]?
AKT: Absolutely. I interviewed both of them earlier today.
ST: Have you seen the movie?
AKT: Yes of course, I never do interviews without having seen the films.
ST: I like her movie. It's very interesting. The main problem is that there's less American distributors who buy French films, you know that. This is the new time of the crisis of independent distribution in the US, in New York. So we have problems now.
AKT: What do you plan to do?
ST: We try to convince all the distributors, even Netflix, to buy French films. We have a meeting with Charles Cohen. On Monday we have a decoration. Yesterday [Thursday] I talked with John Kochman. They did buy 250 theaters in the US. So we have to convince. I saw Michael Barker, who asked me yesterday "What is the best French film in the selection?" I say "All are. All are good." Mademoiselle De Joncquières is very good, you know?
AKT: That will be on Netflix this Friday, no?
ST: Yes, they did buy it in Toronto. It's a good film. A good success in France.
Executive Director of uniFrance, Isabelle Giordano Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
AKT: It won the César for best costume design [for Pierre-Jean Larroque]. It is lovely. I liked it.
ST: It's very good. The actress is great.
AKT: I agree, Cécile de France has the best smile.
AKT: There's a lot going on beneath the surface.
ST: The language of the movie is very sophisticated and she's great.
AKT: Just this week in The New Yorker there was an article about Diderot.
ST: Oh, Diderot?
AKT: Yes, because there are two new books in English coming out about him. One about his relationship with Catherine the Great and another one. Which asks the question - why Diderot now? What does he tell us now?
ST: I don't know.
AKT: I spoke with Emmanuel Mouret [the director of Lady J aka Mademoiselle De Joncquières] briefly about that this morning. With Diderot, there is always room for movement. Nothing is fixed and completely clear.
UniFrance's coveted I Love French Cinema tote bag Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
ST: The ambiguity of feelings. And the language, it's so modern. You can have a kind of talk between a man and a woman and it's very ambiguous, you know. You have to listen what they say, the words, because you hurt from one or you can give a ...
AKT: A caress?
ST: Yes, a caress. It's the language that is so sophisticated, so beautiful, the real French, you know.
AKT: And it's very daring to use this particular episode of Jacques the Fatalist, because it's the same Bresson made into Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne.
ST: Bresson, of course, Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne. And Rivette, too, with La Religieuse.
AKT: Right, different plot.
ST: So Diderot could be a very modern writer.
Lady J aka Mademoiselle De Joncquières will be available on Netflix starting March 8.
The uniFrance and Film Society of Lincoln Center's 24th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in New York, runs through March 10. Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center.