News in brief
18 December 2014 à 17:14
Marc Fitoussi in the Land of the Kangaroos
"It's funny to note that the question most often asked when returning from a trip to Australia is: 'Did you see any kangaroos?'
Well, yes, I did, and strangely enough smack dab in Canberra's city centre.
Just as I saw koalas perched in the branches of an eucalyptus tree, this time over in Brisbane.
But, most of all (and this is probably the most important thing here) I saw an Australian public very partial to French cinema and who turned out in droves to attend the premiere screenings of Paris Follies, which released theatrically in Australia on Dec 11.
Invited by UniFrance and its Australian distributor Palace Films, I traveled to several Australian cities to promote the film and to talk with its first spectators.
Isabelle Huppert has a big following in Australia, and is perhaps even more well known since she performed alongside national icon Cate Blanchett last year, in the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Jean Genet's The Maids.
Standing alone on the poster, with a fur toque on her head, Isabelle, or rather her character, Brigitte Lecanu, was a strong contrast to onlookers, most of whom were wearing shorts, due to the heatwave ravaging the country during my visit.
It was indeed a risk to release the film at the beginning of the Australian summer and at a time when the stream of end-of-year blockbusters fills the movie screens.
But Palace believed in the film and redoubled their efforts to ensure that the film existed as strongly as its competitors. There was hence a poster campaign, but also press advertisements, and widely distributed trailers.
According to its Australian distributor, the film also possesses a winning argument: Paris! Five letters that stir dreams abroad, particularly in Australia. Hence the reference to the mythical cabaret, Les Follies Bergères, in the English title.
A title which I was very pleased to rediscover, because I had already imagined it when writing the screenplay (I liked the bridge it made between Paris and the countryside, through the word 'bergère' - meaning 'shepherdess' in French). I hadn't been able to keep it for the French release precisely because the cabaret didn't want its name associated with a film about cattle breeders.
Fortunately, Australia runs no risk of a court trial by using this title and it hence took me a 22 hour flight to defend and support my film just how I'd fully imagined it.
Australian spectators had no fear of asking questions at the end of the screenings. Many hands were raised in the air: people wanted to know how we'd shot the calving scene, or more about the acrobatic number executed in front of an amazed Jean-Pierre Darroussin. In short, identical questions as those asked during the Moscow, Haifa, and San Francisco film festivals. It's pleasant to note that a film can bring people together to this degree, and connect in the same way with spectators from around the world.
Afterwards, I couldn't stop myself wondering why Australia took the risk of releasing this film theatrically and why we hadn't been able to find a distributor in closer neighbors to France, such as England, Italy, the United States, and even Israel, where some of the film's scenes were shot. It remains a mystery to me.
Even more so, when Paris Follies is doing well commercially: I've just heard that in its opening week, it was already the most-seen French language film in the Australian continent in 2014!
I hence take advantage of this good news to warmly thank Palace for the incredible work they did, and particularly Nicolas Watson, who believed in the film when it was still at the script stage, along with his adorable assistant, Paige Diamond, who accompanied me throughout my journey, helped me decipher the occasionally incomprehensible English of some of the journalists, and, above all, who witnessed my stunned amazement when, rounding a corner, I saw, for the first time in my life, a kangaroo!"
Latest update : 21 January 2015 à 17:14 CET