French accent on comedy strikes gold

Comedies clean up at the global box office

by Richard Mowe

Olivier Nackache and Eric Toledano
Olivier Nackache and Eric Toledano Photo: Unifrance

French film companies are busy setting out their wares in Paris over the next few days to tempt international buyers to flourish their cheque books and to snap up any “bargains.”

The 21st Unifrance Rendezvous with French Cinema, which starts today (17 January), comprises a market for the sales agents and buyers in the swanky Hotel du Collectioneur near the Arc de Triomphe (standing in for the traditional venue the Grand Hotel which is in the midst of major renovations), screenings at the near by UGC George V and associated events such as a concert of French film music, presided over by Bertrand Tavernier, at the Maison de la Radio.

Although last year recorded a dip in box office results for French films (down around 4.3 per cent - for the second consecutive year) the mood remains buoyant with such comedies as C’est La Vie (Le Sens De La Fête) by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano scoring strongly alongside Dany Boon’s Family Is Family (La Ch’tite Famille).

Such animated film as White Fang and The Jungle Bunch as well as the action franchise Taxi 5 and the family saga Belle And Sebastian all helped to raise French cinema’s profile at home and overseas, according to Unifrance’s executive director Isabelle Giordano.

She noted: “Comedies are historically one of the most popular genres of French films internationally, accounting for one third of French film admissions abroad between 1994 and 2014. Welcome To The Sticks, The Bélier Family, Intouchables, and Serial (Bad) Weddings are just a few examples of French comedies that have proven that humour can transcend national borders.”

Nakache and Toledano today received a French Cinema Award at the Ministry of Culture for their contribution to the success of le cinéma français with C’est La Vie attracting more than two million admissions outside France last year. Previous recipients of the award have included actresses Isabelle Huppert and Juliette Binoche who is the president of the Berlin Film Festival’s jury next month.

And keeping up the accent on humour the sequel to Serial (Bad) Weddings will be given a special preview show tonight.

Despite the slide in attendances France remains one of the most cinema-minded countries in Europe with a total box office of some 200.5 million admissions in 2018 compared to 176 million in the UK, 90 million in Germany, 92 million in Spain and 79 million in Italy. French films accounted for some 39.3 per cent of the market garnering some 77 million admissions.

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