FILM / Entree des enfants terribles: They order things differently in France. Adrian Dannatt reports on the rapid turnover among young directors across the Channel
Friday 31 July 1992
Arnaud Desplechin is the very latest hot property, a 31-year-old graduate of IDHEC, the French film school. His post-Cold War thriller La Sentinelle, which begins with a medical student on a train discovering a human head in his bag, has been playing successfully in the Paris theatres since Cannes and will doubtless be honoured at this year's Cesars.
Previously it was the turn of Eric Rochant, who won a Cesar for best short in 1988 then another Cesar for his first feature, Un Monde sans pitie, which went on to be a whopping domestic hit, breaking Paris box-office records. His second feature, Aux yeux du monde, was notably less successful, but at the age of 30 perhaps he's getting on a bit.
The French film industry actively encourages first-time features by very young directors. So it's not surprising to read about the likes of Marion Vernoux, 25, who has written major scripts such as Pacific Palisades (a big budget vehicle for the sultry Sophie Marceau, shot in LA), directed a full-length TV movie and is finishing shooting her first feature for theatre release.
French directors know that, thanks to cultural and linguistic differences, the route to Hollywood is blocked to them. If they do not guard and promote their own industry nobody else will do it for them. Thus, while France pumps out regular batches of talented directors, few of them can ever break out of the local industry and move to Bel-Air.
Luc Besson's career has followed a typical pattern, beginning with a hip first feature in his early twenties (The Last Battle) followed by ambitious hits such as Subway. He is the most overtly commercial of young French directors, but he still has not managed to impress the USA. He even made a special American version of his epic The Big Blue but the film, which made a huge splash in France, sank without trace in the States. Likewise Jean-Jacques Beineix's first film, Diva, was a hit in France but in America succeeded only as an art-house cult oddity. Beineix's subsequent efforts, such as Betty Blue, have found receptive audiences in the Anglo-Saxon territories but nobody in Hollywood would think of them as 'movie', as opposed to 'cinema' culture.
Each year there is a posse of new French cinematic talent, greeted with an interchangeable fanfare - the cover of Cahiers du Cinema, a moody portrait in Liberation, cigarette dangling, and decent queues at the ticket office. Much of this talent owes its rapid access to professional release to equally youthful producers, such as Philippe Godeau and Alain Rocca, 30-year-old moguls of the nouvelle Nouvelle Vague. Godeau, who runs Pan-European Productions, has nurtured such nippers as Desplechin and Olivier Assayas who caused a stir in his turn with Paris s'eveille.
Indeed, it sometimes seems that there are enough successive new waves to make one faintly seasick.
After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violencefilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
- 2 Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
- 3 London restaurant 34 creates champagne glass modelled on Kate Moss’ left breast
- 4 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
- 5 James Foley beheading: Fox news presenter Megyn Kelly annoyed by Ferguson update during broadcast about murdered journalist
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?
Jeremy Clarkson 'sees no problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC
Lucy, film review: Scarlett Johansson will blow your mind in Luc Besson's complex thriller
JK Rowling pens new Harry Potter story on Pottermore: Introducing 'Singing Sorceress' Celestina Warbuck
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians