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‘Anatomy Of A Fall’ Producer Marie-Ange Luciani Talks Berlin Film ‘Langue Étrangère’ & Future Projects

Anatomy of a Fall French producer Marie-Ange Luciani put in a flying appearance at the Berlinale this week with Claire Burger’s coming-of-age drama Langue Étrangère which received a warm reception in competition.

With the Berlin premiere taking place the day after the Baftas in London (where Anatomy of a Fall won Best Screenplay) and eight days before the January 27 voting deadline for this year’s Academy Awards, Luciani was also in the thick of the awards campaign.

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She co-produced the Oscar hopeful with David Thion at Les Films Pelléas under the banner of her Paris-based banner Les Films de Pierre, the company created by Yves Saint Laurent’s long-time business and life partner Pierre Bergé which she acquired on his death in 2018.

New production Langue Étrangère is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale starring Lilith Grasmug as French teenager Fanny who travels to Germany on language exchange trip.  Her German counterpart Lena (Josefa Heinsius) is a larger-than-life, wannabe political activist.  In her thrall, the shy and withdrawn Fanny invents a different life for herself, but her tall tales soon start to unravel.

Further cast members also include Nina Hoss, Chiara Mastroianni and Jalal Altawil, who was seen recently in Agnieszka Holland’s Green Border. Goodfellas handles international sales.

The drama is Burger’s third feature after Cannes 2014 Caméra d’Or-winning Party Girl, which she co-directed with Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq and Samuel Theis, and 2018 solo film C’est ça l’amour.

“It’s the kind of film I like to produce,” says Luciani. “Films that talk about society, that have a link with what we’re going through, what the world’s going through… our preoccupations. The younger generation is also important to me. I think we need to look at it and put in on the big screen.”

“I’ve loved Claire Burger’s work for a long time. I’ve followed her since her short films at [film school] La Fémis. She’s really someone who has had a big place in my life as a cinephile. It’s funny because we met quite late on.”

She likens Burger’s work to that of late director Maurice Pialat (Under The Son Of Satan, To Our Loves) for its “poetic realism” and the way she builds authentic characters.

“This film is a bit more formal than her previous works but it’s essentially a film talking about youth, love, politics, what it means to be political today and what it takes to get involved… these two girls are desperate to express themselves politically but it’s not so easy,” she says.

French distributor Ad Vitam, where Luciani cut her teeth early on in her film career, will release the film in cinemas in France in September.

Luciani hopes it will draw a young crowd.

“With 120 BPM, everyone thought it was a niche film, but it really touched the 17 to 25-year-old demographic,” recalls Luciani of Robin Campillo’s 2018 Aids activism drama which she produced with former Les Films de Pierre colleague and collaborator Hugues Charbonneau.

“Our hope is that youngsters will come see this film. Its adolescent protagonists resemble many adolescents today, who are facing the same dilemmas around how to vote, be engaged, to love… there’s also the subtext about sexual orientation… the film tackles a lot of contemporary issues relevant to youngsters today.”

Fresh from her experiences with Triet and Burger, Luciani is now developing a raft of films by female directors including Léa Mysius (Ava, Five Devils), Monia Chokri (Babysitter), Laura Wandel (Playground) and first feature director Hélène Rosselet-Ruiz. She will also re-team with Thion on Triet’s next film.

This marks a turning point for her company, says Luciani, recounting how she mainly worked with male directors in the early part of her career, notably with Campillo on Eastern Boys (2014) and 120 BPM.

“Astonishingly, I was initially working mainly with men. I wasn’t especially looking for films by women, but it was something I felt I was missing… as the company has evolved, we’ve being sent more projects carried by women. For the first time, we’re producing as many women as men, if not more if you count Justine’s next film, which is an important turning point for us.”

The company’s next production is Laurent Cantet’s Enzo, co-written with Campillo, which is due to begin shooting in August and co-stars Elodie Bouchez and Pierfrancesco Favino.

The drama revolves around the film’s titular 16-year-old protagonist who is working as an apprentice mason in La Ciotat. Urged by his father to pursue higher studies, he has escaped the comfortable but suffocating surroundings of his family home to learn about life on constuction sites alongside Ukrainian colleague Vlad.

It is Luciani’s second collaboration with Cantet, who won the Cannes Palme d’Or in 2008 for The Class, after 2021 film Arthur Rambo.

Mysius’s Histoires de la Nuit will go into production in October. Based on the eponymous thriller by Laurent Mauvignier it follows the sinister goings-on in a remote hamlet in the lead up to the 40th birthday party of one of its inhabitants with a mysterious past. F comme Film is co-producing.

Beyond her own features, Mysius also took co-writer credits on Claire Denis’s Stars at Noon and Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District.

Wendel’s new film is scheduled to shoot at the end of the year.

On the development side, Luciani says Anatomy of a Fall director Triet plans to start writing the screenplay for her next feature in September, once the film’s awards season run is done and dusted and she has taken a break.

Next year is also shaping up to be busy with shoots pencilled in for Campillo’s next film, Maison Alpha, a sci-fi work for which he is currently finishing the screenplay, as well as Chokri’s next feature.

Further features in development include Rosselet-Ruiz’s Les Mains Sales, the feature animation Les Vies Sans Fin De Marie-Angélique Leblanc by Gilles Marchand and Djibril Glissant, and Janloup Bernard’s Sud.

Belgian director Wandel’s new film L’intérêt d’Adam is lead produced by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s Liege-based company Les Films du Fleuve, while Luciani will co-produce Chokri with her long-time Montreal-based producer Nancy Grant.

With her star rising internationally thanks to the awards season run of Anatomy of a Fall, Luciani says she would love to get involved in more international co-productions.

“If the world opens up for me with a desire to produce with France, I would be very happy to accompany directors like Pascal Caucheteux at Why Not has done with Ken Loach, or Jean Labadie with Rodrigo Sorogoyen and Nanni Moretti,” she says.

Taking stock of the recent journey with Anatomy of a Fall, Luciani says the past 10 months have been overwhelming but worth it.

“It’s a lot of work. We’ve been promoting the film since May and it will be March when we finish, so it will have been close to a year but it’s paid off with the film nominated all over the place, at the Goyas, the Baftas, the Oscars and the Césars,” she says.

“It’s been extraordinary, an experience like this is unique in the life of a producer, or a director.”

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