Rendez-vous with French Cinema in Paris (Jan 15-21), which showcases the latest productions from the territory, will host its biggest selection yet at the event’s 15th edition. Melanie Goodfellow reports.

New comedies from Daniele Thompson, David Moreau, Fabien Onteniente and Anthony Marciano will chase away the new year blues at Unifrance’s upcoming Rendez-vous with French Cinema in Paris, which kicks off on Jan 15.

The 15th edition of the annual event, which runs until Jan 21, will showcase 90 recent French productions, 50 of them market premieres. “It is the biggest line-up in the history of the event… we’ve noted a particular accent on comedy this year,” says Unifrance deputy director-general Gilles Renouard [pictured].

Thompson’s comedy about two feuding brothers, It Happened In Saint Tropez (Des Gens Qui S’Embrassent) - starring an ensemble cast led by Monica Bellucci, Kad Merad, Eric Elmosnino and Valérie Bonneton - will open the Rendez-vous.

“It’s a sort of Woody Allen a la Francaise… an intelligent comedy about relationships in a reconstituted family. It’s an upbeat film and I think it works well for the Rendez-vous because it conjures up an image of France that appeals to the outside world,” says Pathé International’s deputy managing director for international sales Muriel Sauzay, who previously launched the hit comedy Welcome To The Sticks at the event.

Pathé will also unveil Onteniente’s Turf, about four gamblers who invest in a racehorse.

Wild Bunch is also set to roll out a comedy-driven French slate including Jean-Marc Rudnicki’s Wrestling Queens (Les Reines Du Ring), a heart-warming tale about a supermarket cashier-turned-wrestler produced by Thomas Langmann, and a promo reel for Tour De Force, about an amateur cyclist who joins the Tour de France. It will also have the market premieres of two films inspired by true events. Hélene Fillieres’ Tied (Une Histoire D’Amour), based on the killing of banker Edouard Stern by his mistress during a sadomasochistic session, and 11.6, about hero bank-robber Toni Musulin.

Other more serious fare includes Rezo’s tense drama Arrest Me (Arretez-Moi) by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld and starring Sophie Marceau as a woman who murders her violent husband.

Light-hearted titles making their market debuts include Stéphanie Murat’s rom-com Max, starring Joey Starr as a single dad whose daughter hires a big-hearted hooker to take care of them, which Elle Driver screened as a promo-reel at the AFM, and Gaumont’s Brats (Les Gamins), directed by Marciano and starring Alain Chabat.

Memento Films International will unveil Agnes Jaoui’s Under The Rainbow (Au Bout Du Conte), exploring modern lives through fairy tales. EuropaCorp will premiere Moreau’s It Boy (20 Ans d’Ecart) about a magazine editor who falls for a younger guy. Les Films du Losange will show Nicolas Philibert’s documentary La Maison De La Radio about state-backed Radio France, while StudioCanal will show its family comedy Bill And Buddy (Boule Et Bill).

Spoilt for choice

Some 40 French sales companies will be present at the market, running Jan 15-18 in the Grand Hotel. The event continues to Jan 21 with junkets aimed at the international press. More than 400 international film and TV buyers are expected to attend the market.

“We go every year, not just for the films but also the projects. It’s a great place to meet sales agents to find out what they’re working on for the coming year,” says Cate Kane of the UK’s Artificial Eye, who will attend with Curzon Cinemas’ director of programming Jason Wood. “We pick up a lot of French films so it’s good to know what’s coming up ahead of Berlin and Cannes,” she adds.

Frank Mannion of Swipe Films, who attended the Rendez-vous for the first time last year, acquired Gilles Legrand’s You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils) after the 2012 edition, releasing it in the UK in December. “It is a film-buff’s dream, being invited to Paris to screen the latest top-quality films the French industry has to offer,” he says.

Alongside the market, Unifrance is also hosting a meeting for some 50 exhibitors from across Europe. “We will be looking at how exhibitors can work with social networks and also the implications of VoD and strategies such as day and date releases,” says Renouard.

Unifrance will hold its annual press conference - with The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius and Intouchables directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano - on the performance of French films at the international box office on Jan 18.