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Jean-Claude Van Rijckeghem lives in a cobblestoned quarter of Ghent that is full of restaurants. So he only had to step out of his door to do the research for his latest script Brasserie Romantique. It turns out that chefs and staff are only all too eager to discuss the peculiarities of their customers, not to mention to show off their prowess in the kitchen. With scenes introduced by intertitles bearing menu courses, the film follows blind dates, new love and old quarrels in a chic restaurant of valentine’s night.
Brasserie Romantique tells the story of Pascaline (Sara De Roo, Hotel Swooni), who owns a restaurant with her brother, Angelo (Axel Daeseleire, Hell in Tangier). It’s Valentine’s Day, and the restaurant is fully booked by couples looking for a little romance.
At film school students are taught that a movie is made three times. You write it, you shoot it, and you edit it. Felix Van Groeningen never forgot this lesson. At every stage of filmmaking, the director will push things to the limits. He writes versions of the same story until he goes crazy himself. While shooting, he keeps on going until the whole crew is exhausted. And while editing he takes radical measures to get to the point where the film is the rollercoaster it was intended, but never foreseen to be.
What sets Felix Van Groeningen’s heart racing is the moment when he can match an actor with a role. ‘When I see those two things come together, for me it’s like the feeling of falling in love,’ he says capturing that sence of excitement in a performance is what his cinema is all about. ‘At the moment itself, in front of the camera. It has to touch me. The director of such films as The Misfortunates and The Broken Circle Breakdown is happy to admit that he finds writing difficult and that visual style is not uppermost in his mind when conceiving a film.
The soundtrack of Bavo Defurne’s second feature film Souvenir is to be composed by the Pink Martini ensemble. Also Adriano Cominotto has been confirmed for the film’s musical score. Cominotto previously created the soundtrack of Defurne’s debut feature North Sea Texas.
Pink Martini was created in 1994 in the United States by founder Thomas Lauderdale and brings a combination of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop. The ensemble reunites some 10 to 12 musicians and had its European debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2008.
Last year’s Oscar nomination for Bullhead launched the international careers of director Michaël R. Roskam and leading man Matthias Schoenaerts. The film’s producer, Bart Van Langendock, has yet to follow them across the atlantic, but the nomination has changed his life in other ways.
‘Industry people like international sales agents and distributors are more eager to listen to what I have to offer now,’ he says. ‘Now that they know my name, and it’s linked to Bullhead, they are at least willing to look at new projects.’
Felix van Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown and Alex van Warmerdam’s feature Borgman, a co-production with Flanders through Epidemic, are selected to compete in the official competition of this year’s Sydney Film Festival (5-16 June). The Sydney fest is one of the world’s longest-running festivals, its official competition presenting the Sydney Film Prize and $60,000 in cash.
When everything comes together there’s nothing to beat being a film producer. ‘Finding an audience with a good film is amazing,’ says Dirk Impens of Menuet. It’s a big kick. It’s orgasmic.’ Impens felt the love early on in his career with Daens, which was nominated for an Oscar, and more recently with Felix Van Groeningen’s The Misfortunates, which was a huge success at home and in festivals abroad. Van Groeningen’s latest, The Broken Circle Breakdown, rolls out internationally at the Berlinale.
However, Impens wasn't so sure it would happen with van Groeningen's most recent movie. Where The Misfortunates attracted a young audience with its mix of comic bad behaviour and deep emotion, The Broken Circle Breakdown is about a more sobering subject: a couple driven apart when their small daughter develops a terminal illness.
After the success of The Misfortunates at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009 director Felix van Groeningen had plenty of offers. ‘A lot of scripts came in, but I stopped reading them because it made me very sad,’ he says. ‘It’s not my style, I can’t decide to make a movie like that. If I want to make something it has to start from inside.'
The kind of deep, emotional reaction he is talking about happened when he saw The Broken Circle Breakdown featuring the cover-ups of Alabama'. This musical stage play tells the story of Elise and Didier, two completely different people who are right for one another. She runs a tattoo parlour and he plays banjo in a bluegrass band. They fall in love, perform together and have a daughter, Maybelle. but when the little girl dies of cancer, they lose one another as well.
Acting talent from Flanders will be all over the place at this year's Cannes. A staggering seven Flemish actors star in films that are shown in the Fest's Official Selection: Matthias Schoenaerts stars alongside Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard and Clive Owen in Guillaume Canet’s Out of Competition entry Blood Ties. Jan Bijvoet, Jeroen Perceval, Tom Dewispelaere and Gene Bervoets feature in Alex van Warmerdam’s Official Competition entry Borgman. Johan Leysen plays in François Ozon's Jeune et Jolie, also presented in Competition. Finally, Wim Willaert takes the lead role in Gilles Coulier’s short Mont Blanc, which is also competing for a Golden Palm.
Actor Wim Willaert and director Gilles Coulier are no newcomers to Cannes. Willaert was also cast for Gilles Coulier’s earlier short Iceland which made it into 2010's Cannes Cinéfondation student competition. Willaert also stars in Offline by Peter Monsaert which Lumiere/Lunanime presents at the Market. Mont Blanc is produced by Dirk Impens (of the award-winning The Broken Circle Breakdown which also screens at the Market) for Menuet.
The Zigzag Kid by Vincent Bal has won the European Young Audience Award after 12-to-14-year-olds from nine European countries casted their vote for one of the three nominated youth films. The Zigzag Kid, a Dutch-Belgian co-production quickly surfaced as the absolute favourite by grabbing the highest scores in every country. Issued by the European Film Academy (EFA), it’s the second time the Young Audience Award was presented.
On May 6 the nine partnering European countries organised a Young Audience Film Day for the second year in a row. An audience of 12-to-14-year-olds got the chance to watch EFA’s three nominated films and to vote for their favourite. Also in the running was the Franco-Belgian animation feature The Suicide Shop as well as the German film UPSIDEdown.
When Caroline Strubbe picked up her screenwriting award in Cannes for Lost Persons Area she was hiding a guilty secret. ‘I had success with the movie, but I was thinking: I don’t enjoy the process at all, I had strong doubts about wanting to be a director. ‘ But giving up wasn’t an option, however, since Lost Persons Area was just a part of the story. She had to tell it all. ‘My urge to come to terms with “a bad memory” is just stronger than the process.’ Fortunately the recently completed I’m the same I’m an other has been a more positive experience.