As Haneke’s Amour premieres, MD Margaret Ménégoz talks about the company’s storied history.

There are few independent companies doing business on the Croisette today that can claim a 50-year-history.

Les Films du Losange is one of these rare outfits. The Paris-based company, which is premiering its latest production, Michael Haneke’s Amour, in competition on Sunday (May 20), is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

New Wave directors Barbet Schroeder and Eric Rohmer set up the company in 1962, kicking off its activities with Rohmer’s short The Bakery Girl of Monceau starring Schroeder as a two-timing young man who has to choose between his love interests.

“It was a period when a number of filmmakers of the New Wave, or close to the New Wave, set up their own companies,” says Losange managing director Margaret Ménégoz, citing Francois Truffaut’s Les Films du Carrosse, Claude Berri’s Renn Productions and Claude Zidi’s ZDF.

“Not only did they revolutionise the way of filming, they also broke away from traditional ways of producing. Les Films du Losange was born out of a strong desire to be independent,” she adds.

Over its 50-year history, the company has produced some 80 features including the works of Roger Planchon, Haneke and Jacques Rivette.

In 1986, it launched its own theatrical distribution label to handle Rohmer’s experimental film Le Rayon Vert. It’s current theatrical slate includes Léos Carax’s competition picture Holy Motors and Joachim Lafosse’s Un Certain Regard screener A Perdre La Raison.

Its world sales arm, which is handling Amour, Norwegian Bent Hamer’s 1001 Grams and Arnaud des Pallières Michael Kohlhaas at the Cannes market, launched in the early 1990s.

Losange is one of the few independents to have maintained the rights to its pictures. Ménégoz says the catalogue sales enable the company to bankroll the development of its projects.

“It gives us incredible freedom,” she says. “If we’re developing a film and we realise it doesn’t work, we can drop it… we don’t have to push forward to recoup the costs.”

Ménégoz joined Losange in the mid-1970s when joint shooting commitments meant neither Schroeder nor Rohmer could oversee the running of the company. 

“Barbet Schroeder was preparing Mistress (Maîtresse) and Eric Rohmer, The Marquise of O (La Marquise d’O),” recalls Ménégoz. “They took me on to keep the place ticking over.”

In the end, Rohmer decided to shut the office for two months and take Ménégoz to Berlin to act as his assistant on the set of his adaptation of Heinrich von Kleist’s play, but on their return she took over the running of the company.

The film, starring Bruno Ganz and Edith Clever, won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 1976 but Rohmer did not attend to pick up his prize.

“Eric Rohmer never put a foot in a festival – he couldn’t see the point in them – and the actors were performing in Berlin so I picked up the award with the cinematographer Nestor Almendros,” recalls Ménégoz.

“‘Cannes was very different back then. Actors could walk down the Croisette without being mobbed,” she adds. “It was a lot more intimate.”

Since then, Ménégoz has been a regular attendee, sitting on the jury presided over by Roman Polanski on 1991 and, most recently, accompanying Haneke’s Losange-produced pictures Hidden and Golden Palm winning The White Ribbon.

Losange started producing Haneke after he parted company with producer Marin Karmitz after The Piano Teacher.

“Haneke told his agent to find him a new producer. He was doing a sort of casting if you like,” says Ménégoz. “To be honest I wasn’t that keen. I respected Haneke as a filmmaker but found the subject matter of his films like Benny’s Video and Funny Games quite heavy. I didn’t want to spend a year steeped in perversion, death and absolute cruelty.”

‘But it was an offer I couldn’t at least consider. I took one of my staff along with me to meet him for dinner. I was too scared to go on my own. We clicked immediately,” she says. “When he broached the subject of working together, I told him my reservations and he burst out laughing – saying he had come to the conclusion already that it was time to do something else.”

Some 12 years after that first dinner, Ménégoz will accompany Haneke on the red carpet for the third time on Sunday with Amour.

Ménégoz fully understands what rides on the film’s Cannes premiere.

“The one thing that has not changed at Cannes is that a film’s screening here can make or break a film,” says Ménégoz. “The whole of the world’s press discovers the film at 8.30 in the morning and then it is out of your hands.”