[Jonathan Romney surveys the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series in Film Comment, taking a look at France's latest crop of young talent and the journey those who came before them took en route to “ubiquity.”]
Katell Quillévéré's Suzanne.
Over the next few years, keep an eye on Solène Rigot. Actually, I happened to think of her but I could have mentioned any number of promising young actors in French cinema—Maud Wyler, for example, or Laetitia Dosch, Kirill Emelyanov, Pierre Rochefort… There’s never any shortage of young acting talent emerging from France, not least because of the sheer volume of the country's film production (last year, 209 features were approved for funding by the CNC, the industry's government body).
The way that engine keeps pumping ensures a constantly renewed workforce of young actors coming on the French scene—every season a new “new wave,” if you want to call it that. In fact, it tends to be a case of consistently rolling waves rather than a sudden deluge. The latter happens, certainly—now and again, a single film will present us with a brand-new talent, exploding without warning onto the screen. The French press thrives on such abrupt “révélations”— as was the case last year with Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color), or in 2009 with Tahar Rahim (A Prophet). (In fact, these “meteors” rarely come entirely out of the blue: Rahim had already made a mark on TV, while Exarchopoulos had made several films and played Jane Birkin’s daughter at the age of 10.)
More commonly, though, French actors’ emergences tend to happen by slow accretion—you suddenly realize that you recognize someone because they’ve been there a lot in the background, or in small films that you’ve only half-noticed. Then, before you know it, they’re everywhere. It happened a couple of years before Blue Is the Warmest Color with Léa Seydoux; in this year’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, she’s terrific in Rebecca Zlotowski’s power-plant drama Grand Central, playing a tough proletarian vamp, a sort of modern-day Simone Signoret role. Similarly in the Nineties, it took a while before you registered that Mathieu Amalric had acquired the superpower of ubiquity (the theory persists that French film financing works on a principle of “Amalric points”: get enough Amalric into a film, even if it’s only the one-shot cameo he once played for Eugène Green, and your funding is secure).[Read the full article here on Film Comment. The Rendez-Vous with French Cinema series takes place March 6-16, opening Thursday night with Emmanuelle Bercot's On My Way starring Catherine Deneuve. Schedules and ticketing information can be found here. ]