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News in brief

10 January 2023 à 11:41

Daniel Toscan du Plantier - 20 years after, an intact ambition

On February 11, 2003, mid-way through the Berlin Film Festival, Daniel Toscan du Plantier suddenly passed away. But “passing away” is not the right expression. As we approach the 20th anniversary of his death, Unifrance is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Unifrance Rendez-Vous in Paris that he created. This event, and many others, like his ever-present aura, prove how great his influence still is. To pay tribute to him, Unifrance has chosen to dedicate the 2023 edition of these Rendez-Vous to Toscan du Plantier, and to invite various personalities to reflect on the links that still bind them to him.

Three questions to Serge Toubiana, President of Unifrance

What do you consider Daniel Toscan du Plantier's essential contribution to French cinema's influence?

Daniel Toscan du Plantier always had the ambition to broaden the horizon of French cinema internationally. During his years at the head of Gaumont, in the 1970s and 1980s, he developed, with the approval and concurrence of Nicolas Seydoux, his boss and friend, two ambitious projects: that of establishing Gaumont in Italy and in Brazil. These two attempts were failures, for complex reasons, but the idea had panache: to make Gaumont a "globalized" company, able to promote French and international filmmakers all over the world and to open movie theaters in Rome, Milan, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, thus making it a "world brand".

He also had the intuition to create an alliance with Dan Talbot, an American distributor of auteur films (Truffaut, Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa, among others) and owner of Lincoln Plaza, an art house theater located in the heart of Manhattan.

Daniel Toscan du Plantier had this goal, based on a vision and a desire to offer the films he loved, produced, or distributed, the highest visibility in theaters around the world.

It was only logical that he should become president of Unifrance, after his Gaumont years (1975 - 1985), followed by his period at Erato, during which he produced so many films, so many French filmmakers (Maurice Pialat, of course, but many others as well), along with many from elsewhere. At Unifrance, he was able to give free rein to his ambition to broaden the horizon of French cinema, to make films and talents travel, to plant the flag of auteur cinema across the globe. He possessed something of an ambassador, an imaginary head of state, dealing as an equal with cinema's power players all over the world. He spoke the "language" of cinema, which he placed above all else, to them, engaging in battles for cultural exception, taking along with him directors, actresses, and actors, creating festivals here and there (Sarasota, Yokohama, Acapulco, to mention just a few).

What would you like to see passed on to the next generation?

This need for French cinema to reach beyond borders, to have a vision and an ambition, to appeal to spectators from all over the world. He knew how to do it because he believed in it, with passion.

Which achievement impressed you the most?

In addition to the festivals that he created or initiated, he was responsible for the Rendez-Vous in Paris, to which buyers of French films from all over Europe are invited every January. These Rendez-Vous, which have been a genuine success despite a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, will relaunch in January 2023. We owe them to Daniel Toscan du Plantier. And it is to him that Unifrance dedicates the event this year.


Margaret Menegoz
Producer, President of Unifrance from 2003 to 2009

“What linked me to Daniel Toscan du Plantier were the films: we liked the same ones, and he appreciated those I produced. That’s why I was asked to act as interim president of Unifrance when he passed away, an interim that lasted several years.

French cinema’s influence is indebted to him. Before him, Unifrance was a small club of producers, he opened our cinema to the international scene and elevated its standing.

Toscan had an almost exclusive love for artists. He liked being close to them and he liked them to be in the spotlight. When I took over from him, I gave Unifrance a more business orientation, by allowing space and visibility to producers, distributors, and other professionals: with Toscan, only the artists went on stage, for example. In reality, a mix of both is needed; artists need nurturing, likewise business."


Jacques Toubon
Former Minister of Culture and Francophonie

“Representing the French and European film industry, inspiring imagination and an aesthetic that made our cinema and filmmakers triumph, an unrivalled spokesman for the French spirit of the seventh art, without question, Daniel Toscan du Plantier was this, with panache and efficacy.

However, among all my memories of him, I would cherish those that relate to our common political struggle, that of ‘cultural exception,’ at the center of which is our film policy.

If we have won the battle against Hollywood and against those Europeans more interested in free trade than in culture, we owe it to the men and women, in particular from the profession, who understood and demonstrated that French cultural exception was not an identity-based approach but an instrument for promoting the universal values of a European culture of which Daniel Toscan du Plantier was a perfect representative.”

 


Jean-Paul Salomé
Filmmaker, President of Unifrance from 2012 to 2017

"He had selected my second film (Restons groupés) for the Acapulco French Film Festival, my first experience with Unifrance. I discovered his unique ability to get the different families of cinema to mingle by breaking apart cliques. I was very touched by this approach. For his part, he appreciated that I know how to speak in public, and so he invited me to other festivals. This encounter with Daniel was a determining factor in my desire, years later, to apply for the presidency of Unifrance.

During my two mandates, I made sure to carry on his vision and his spirit. I was the first filmmaker to take on this role, and I carried out my mission as a team leader concerned that everyone find their place. It was my way of following in his footsteps, with this desire to federate, to overcome the differences between auteur and commercial films and to show the diversity and richness of our cinema.

Daniel was a great communicator, a showman who projected a positive image of French cinema and knew how to inspire people. This role that Unifrance plays, supported by the quality of the films, is what international professionals envy about our film industry. For me, this is what we must retain from him and cultivate: giving artists the desire to be together beyond rivalries.

Like many, I was very saddened by his early death. He was a rare personality, with generosity,  enthusiasm, and foresight. He was forward-looking, a precursor. We were not of the same generation, nor intimate, but I always felt at ease with him: he was sincere in his openness to others. I was proud and honored to be one of his successors."


Marc Tessier
President of Commission Nationale du Film France, former executive director of the CNC, former President of France Télévisions

"To evoke the memory of Daniel Toscan du Plantier in a few lines would require a feat that could only reduce the dimension of his extraordinary personality. I knew the man of great culture, the friend of my greatest adventures at the CNC and then at France Télévisions, the one who supported artists as a producer and president of Unifrance, the visionary who knew how to impose himself as the ambassador of French cinema.

Daniel always stepped up to the plate when faced with a seemingly insurmountable challenge. He was always ready for it. And he didn't shy from a fight.

I had the pleasure of accompanying him on trips abroad, in the highest of spirits but at the limits of exhaustion. What a fine image he imparted to French cinema! His sudden death left many great creators orphaned. Whether it was Canal+ at its launch, the operas he produced, the international encounters he knew how to conceive, the friends he brought together, he left his mark on each event for a long time afterwards."


Danièle Thompson
Film director

"An aquamarine gaze.
An aquamarine gaze,a musketeer's moustache, warm voice, conquering and definitive phrasing always tinged with humor, regal presence and yet an approachability thanks to a disarming smile: this is the image that remains with me from our first meeting in 1975. It was on the set of Cousin Cousine, his debut feature, with his first love the delightful Marie-Christine.
Some time later, a dinner with an unlikely cast brought us together at my father's house with Romain Gary. The evening remains unforgettable. And all the moments shared with Daniel afterwards as well: trips to the ends of the earth as part of Unifrance, the beginning of the César adventure, etc.
His luminous personality gave the impression that nothing and no one could stop him: from speaking, acting, fighting, seducing, launching himself into the most unexpected, the most audacious projects. The impression also that he swam more voluptuously in waters agitated by contrary winds.
His taste for adventure and risk, his curiosity, culture, joie de vivre, his passion for cinema, for travel, for encounters, for artists in the spotlight, but above all for those in the shadows whom he drew towards the sun, made him one of the most singular and attractive men of our generation.
Every moment of his personal and professional lives, both intimately linked, was marked by great happiness, magnificent successes, failures too, of course, and great tragedies. Several chapters of his life story could inspire the scenarios of films he would have liked to produce.
A last dinner in January 2003 brought us together with his last love, Melita, who had led him on the path to new happiness. Daniel was very affected by the death of his friend Maurice Pialat. That evening, his blue eyes could not hide his sadness. And yet, he made us laugh a lot... "


Pascal Rogard
Executive Director of the SACD

“By the cinema. For the cinema. The seventh art accompanied Daniel Toscan du Plantier’s entire life, until his death during the Berlin Film Festival, one sad day in 2003.

Daniel Toscan du Plantier was obviously the producer of so many great cinema names, Joseph Losey, Robert Bresson, Federico Fellini, Maurice Pialat, Peter Greeneway, and others. He found his place in this bygone era of the cinema ‘moguls.’ But if producer was his job, to make French cinema shine was his passion. His vocation, even, for all those who saw him travel to festivals all over the world, from Japan to the United States, from Mexico to Morocco!

President of Unifrance, he put all his energy, elegance, and verve into being the ambassador and standard-bearer of French cinema, without ever abdicating his curiosity for world cinema. 20 years after his death, his commitment is a precious heritage that we must cultivate, and his enthusiasm for flying the flag of a pluralist and vibrant French cinema is a value to share.”


Philippe Carcassonne
Producer

"Toscan, or the art of apparent paradox.

He devoted his last fifteen years to defending French cinema abroad, but he had begun his career by defending the best of foreign cinema in France. No doubt he understood that associating France with the great names of world cinema was already a way of promoting French cinema.

He relentlessly traveled the corridors of power, but he built Unifrance's policy in a spirit of total independence. Paraphrasing his idol Rossellini, he said: 'Those in power whom we can't get rid of, we can only harass them with love...'.

He embodied the essence of lightness, of fantasy, but he worked with the utmost seriousness to consolidate our cinema's cultural edifice. In public, he would joke about films and then... one-on-one: 'What territories do you have left to sell? How can I help you?'

We would be well advised to meditate today on the truths hidden behind the 'apparent paradoxes' of Daniel Toscan du Plantier."


Éric and Nicolas Altmayer
Producers, recipients of the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Award in 2017

“Our love of cinema was fashioned in theaters, but also thanks to video stores and film magazines. Very quickly we were fascinated by those who, at the crossroads of the artistic and the economic factors, accompany the projects from the first to the last day: producers. Few were known to the public, except one: Daniel Toscan du Plantier. The most media-friendly, the most dynamic, the most seductive. We dreamed of meeting Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve, François Truffaut, and Jean-Paul Rappeneau, but above all, we dreamed of doing the same job as he did.

Meeting him gave us the childish pleasure fans experience when in front their idol, and he did not disappoint us, seductive and charming, enthusiastic and exciting, as inspiring as we had imagined. Thanks to him, we learned to support cinema beyond our borders. Then we were proud to receive the award that bears his name. We thank him again for making us dream of this profession, for having served so well the myth of the producer and the flamboyance of French cinema.”


Marie Ange Luciani
Producer, recipient of the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Award in 2018

“The award that bears his name is one of the few to honor producers. Daniel Toscan du Plantier contributed to making our profession visible, with taste, elegance, and imagination.

He devoted much of his life to making films, traveling with films, creating festivals, celebrating cinema. What would he have done when confronted by the crisis that threatens cinema today? I imagine him at the frontline, standing alongside artists, always.

He said somewhere, talking about his production choices: ‘We’ve given up on the stock market, we only invest in love at first sight’.

To our love, dear Daniel."


Toufik Ayadi and Christophe Barral
Producers, recipients of the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Award in 2020

“The name Daniel Toscan du Plantier has never ceased to ring in our ears. Having spent 12 years at Sylvie Pialat’s side, we could not help but hear about him, even if it was only whenever Maurice (Pialat) was mentioned, whose producer and supporter he had been.

He embodied a positive figure, that of a great producer who believes in his directors and makes things happen. He truly left a lasting impression on the profession.

We received the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Award, even though we have yet to establish a filmography as illustrious as his. We are immensely proud to associate our names with his, he who was part of the genesis of so many films that gave us the desire to work in cinema.”


Caroline Bonmarchand
Producer, recipient of the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Award in 2021

"Coming from a family far removed from the world of cinema, for me, Daniel Toscan du Plantier was the only embodiment of the producer's profession I knew. I remember his television interviews, his charisma, his passion for his profession, which he always approached with good humour. Like him, I studied political science but always with the project of working in the film sector. I had the chance to meet him after he left Gaumont to create his production company, Erato Films. I was living in New York at the time and was wondering about returning to France: he praised the merits of independence, of freedom, and reinforced my idea of creating my own company.

His definition of cinema as 'a popular and intelligent art' has always been very inspiring to me and I try to take it into account in the choice of the films I support. His loyalty to filmmakers suggests to me that beyond his love for the works he produced, the friendships he had with cinema artists were an essential and valued factor. This attitude is also central to my work and life.

The Daniel Toscan du Plantier Award: there could be no better name for a prize recognizing a film producer's work. I was impressed when Sylvie Pialat received it two years in a row, but also very moved when my friend Marie-Ange Luciani was awarded it. In 2021, when we were still in partial lockdown, I received the award for Enormous and I must admit that I wasn't expecting it at all. I think it showed... When I heard my name, I thought it was a joke! It was a great joy even if I could only share it with my husband and children who, after five minutes, asked me if we could have dinner and move on! But the many messages of support I received were very touching. Receiving this award will remain a very important moment for me.

The figure of Daniel Toscan du Plantier inspires me and reminds me that we are in a profession of passion and freedom, and that we must be aware of this good fortune and opportunity every day."


Isabelle Partiot-Pieri
Director of the film Toscan, stage director, set and costume designer

"Preparing my architecture degree about a building combining opera and cinema, I grabbed Daniel by the sleeve during a television show to ask for a meeting, and he received me at Gaumont. He saw me again, not without surprise, at Radio-France bringing coffees to the singers recording the soundtrack of Carmen: 'You again?' Then as assistant designer for Don Giovanni, which he directed in Monte Carlo: 'Still here?' I showed him how to do staging notation, when he pushed back the sheets of paper, sat back in his chair and said to me, twirling his moustache: 'Paperwork isn't my thing. Directing is not my job, nor is it yours. Do you want to be my assistant?' I thought it was great: no expert to nag him. Completely free, totally bold.
Just like he was. Just like in my film."


Alain Sussfeld
Executive Director of UGC

“I knew Daniel before he arrived at Gaumont. He was at Régie Presse, my wife was at France Soir and Elle, this company’s main titles at the time, and my father was at Gaumont, a collaborator and friend of Alain Poiré. Daniel spoke only about cinema, his passion, and his admiration for the directors and actors of that period. They weren’t Gaumont Production personalities, whose talent and appeal he had, like many of our generation, underestimated. He had never imagined he would have to live with that world. But he and Nicolas Seydoux quickly understood that a plurality of personalities would strengthen the company’s leadership in national production for a long time to come, that Gérard Oury and Louis de Funès could cohabit with Ettore Scola and François Truffaut, with Gérard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve.

Everyone knew Daniel’s devastating sense of humor. As luck would have it, we found ourselves associated with Michel Seydoux to produce Cyrano. At Cannes, after the screening, Daniel spoke to Madame Seydoux, Michel’s mother, and said: ‘Adopt Guy Verrecchia and you will control all French cinema.’

Daniel was an incomparable personality, who can have no successor; let’s hope he remains a reference for today’s generations.”


Nicolas Brigaud-Robert
Film Exporter

“Daniel was an optimist, one of the first to tell us: ‘Don't worry, your business will work.’ As he said with a big, benevolent smile, we believed him, and François Yon and I launched Films Distribution (which became Playtime) under his amused and paternal gaze.

At international events, Daniel paid a lot of attention to the artistic delegation, but also appreciated the presence of exporters. He would glean from us the information he would need during his stay, and take the profession’s pulse: who is buying at the moment? What do local distributors think of a particular director or actor? How is French cinema holding up here? This data fed into lengthy speeches, impressive for their analytical finesse even though they seemed improvised.

How can we not evoke Daniel’s verve, his pleasure in front of an audience? He had all the qualities of a politician: charisma, a feeling for the audience, an immense capacity for seduction... It is thanks to this talent that Unifrance and film exports emerged from obscurity. He understood that the alliance of glitz and a national commercial power would be the winning cocktail for French cinema. It was necessary to know how to navigate this balance, and certain parties of the ‘Toscan era’ are undeniably remembered.

But to think Daniel was a socialite would be to misunderstand him. He was a modest man, preferring polite and courteous interaction rather than familiar camaraderie. However, he was capable of spontaneity. On the evening of February 10, the day before he died, I ran into him in the lobby of our hotel in Berlin, when returning from a dinner where we had concluded an important negotiation. Seeing us in such a good mood, Daniel concluded that our little company was not doing so badly, a turn of events he had predicted. Without hesitation, he led us to the bar and said to the waiter: ‘Champagne! These gentlemen are paying, they have plenty to celebrate.’ I was very happy to have shared his last bottle of champagne with him. If I’d known, we would have had two.”


Daniela Elstner
Executive Director of Unifrance

“Dear Daniel,

January 1996, the first edition of the Lumière Awards in Paris. I had been an intern at Unifrance for a week, managing logistics. Amazed by the staging of the event, I observed an imposing man, the conductor, the evening’s attractive force. It was you, dear Daniel.

You opened the way for us. In Japan as in Mexico, you had the right word for everyone— distributor, producer, institution—and were constantly concerned with creating links between artists, while focused on taking, far beyond our borders, this French cinema that you loved so much.

You were inspiring, you transmitted your energy, your passion, your love of art to so many people, in all the cinema professions! I am one of them, and thank you.

And then there is Unifrance. You made this organization your own. Your ideas have circulated throughout the world and have inspired other countries. You put Unifrance on the international stage, and we make sure every day that these spotlights stay on.

In the eyes of the world, your legacy is not about to be extinguished.”

 

Contact : Executive Management

Latest update : 09 January 2023 à 11:41 CET

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