Focus on French Cinema festival announces debut film

April 1, 2019

GREENWICH — When a high-powered editor visits a small French town, stumbles upon an unpublished manuscript and decides to publish it, it sparks a hilarious who-done-it that is the premise of “Le Mystère Henri Pick.”

The film, directed by Rémi Bezançon and written by acclaimed author David Foenkinos, will make its U.S. debut on the opening night of the 15th annual Focus on French Film Festival, hosted in Greenwich, Stamford and New York City.

“We’re really excited about this movie,” film critic Joe Meyers said. “It’s a real crowd-pleaser … about the sources of literary genius, done in an accessible, fast-passed, thriller-style way. It’s a strong film to open festival with.”

The film will be shown at Bow Tie Cinemas on Railroad Avenue at 8 p.m. Friday, April 26.

It will follow the opening gala from 6 to 7:30 p.m. that night hosted at the Greenwich Arts Council by Les Maîtres Cuisiniers de France and L’Académie Culinaire de France. The gallery will feature film posters from festivals since 2005.

The festival invited Camille Cottin, the lead of “The Mystery of Henri Pick,” to attend the festival. Cottin is also a main star in “Call My Agent,” a popular French-language Netflix show about a group of movie agents hustling to keep their company afloat after their boss unexpectedly dies.

The organizers saw the film in Paris and chose it for two reasons: It would be making its U.S. premiere, and would be of interest to middle and high school students, who will see it as part of the festival’s outreach and education mission.

“It’s a literary caper for all ages,” said Renée Amory Ketchamm, president of the Alliance Française of Greenwich. “Thrilling, wonderful, upbeat; a light movie with educational ramifications for students that will also entertain the opening night audience.”

Audience members will take a virtual journey to Brittany, organizer Sylvie Sergent said.

The film represents French cinema well, Meyers said, because the industry still makes solid, mainstream comedy-dramas for smart adults.

“This speaks to me in a stronger way than most Hollywood films I’ve seen over last six months,” he said. “We’ve lost our way with films geared toward teenagers and young adults.”

Foenkinos is an award-winning novelist, Sergent said. She compared him to Andy Warhol because, like the celebrated artist, Foenkinos became sick when he was young, and his creative genius started while he was bedridden.

The organizers are trying to find a way to Skype in Foenkinos at the festival, Ketcham said.

In addition to five days of film, the festival will host a round-table breakfast at Bow Tie Cinemas at 11 a.m. April 27, when ticket-buyers can listen to Meyers speak with Quebecois and French directors discuss films.

“We’re going to hear from two young directors with their first films, which have been widely acclaimed in other festivals,” Meyers said.

One is 19-year-old Nathan Ambrosioni, who conceived of “Les drapeaux de papier,” and in English, “Paper Flags” when he was 18. The film follows a returning prisoner who moves in with his sister and the relationship they build.

“If I had watched without knowing anything, I’d be amazed to know it was the product of a teenager,” Meyers said. “It’s a very adult film, very raw. ... It’s the start of what I think is going to be an incredible film career. I can’t imagine what he’ll be doing five years from now.”

Additional screenings and parties will be held April 29 at the Avon Theatre, and a closing night film and gala on April, 30 at the French Institute Alliance Française in Manhattan.

Film festival officials this Wednesday will announce the rest of the lineup, which will include eight other French-language movies making their U.S. debuts. For more information on events, visit focusonfrenchcinema.com/.