As curtains fell on the "Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema" in Singapore, it was top-notch French actress Sophie Marceau who stole the limelight. It was not only her chic and graceful demeanour but also her wit and a dry sense of humour which mesmerised film fans.
Sophie Marceau and Unifrance chairman Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre at the Societe Generale Private Banking 2nd Rendezvous With French Cinema opening in Singapore.
Leading a cast of French celebrities, the 46-year-old iconic star _ whose superhit La Boum in 1980 launched her film career _ was in the Garden City to promote her latest romantic comedy Happiness Never Comes Alone, one of 13 films which premiered at last week's event, a showcase of new titles as well as a promotion of Singapore as a film marketplace.
In a candid interview, the beautiful French star spoke on an array of issues with the international media.
On the connection between Singapore and French cinema, Marceau took up a botanical analogy: "Among many things Singapore is famous for are its gardens, and its great variety of orchids. I myself love orchids because for one they don't need earth to grow, put them in pots and they flower beautifully.
"I would like to say the same about cinema, all we need is a place where we can showcase what we are and what we know. I feel strongly that Singapore is that link for [French cinema]. Singaporeans love movies, and they enjoy watching French cinema. As everything seems to be so successful here _ I hope cinema will grow as much as banks do in Singapore," she said with a laugh.
Marceau is known to world audiences for such Hollywood hits as Braveheart (1995) and The World Is Not Enough (1999), though she's equally memorable in French films such as Police (1985) and Female Agents (2008). She has enjoyed a string of international successes and one of the reasons for her longevity in cinema, she said, was due to her continued efforts to promote her movies since the age of 15.
By making herself accessible to her fans around the globe, she said she has formed a "real relationship" with them, adding that cinema is a passport to travel, a great method to promote culture.
The versatile actress believes her popularity in Asia, which has spanned more than three decades, was largely due to her debut film La Boum, a teenage love story she starred in when she was 15. (In the 1990s, it was common to find the film's poster stuck on the bedroom walls of many Thai boys and girls.)
Marceau said people loved her character because they could relate to her. The movie addressed universal issues such as love, broken relationships and family problems. Her Asian fan base seems to have formed such an emotional attachment with her that when Marceau was in South Korea on a promotional tour, she was asked, quite perplexingly, whether her grandmother was Korean.
On promoting French cinema in Asia, Marceau suggested there were obstacles and a more proactive approach was needed. In countries such as China, it is difficult to promote foreign films due to censorship, she said.
However, she admitted one of the most salient reasons French movies have still not made an impact worldwide is because of the feeling of superiority the French have about their culture, expecting the outside world should come to them and not vice versa.
"I think that type of [mindset] was a mistake from the start, and as you see the Americans understood that concept of the need to go out and promote a long time ago," noted Marceau. "They have been very tough on marketing and promoting not just their cinema but other aspects of their culture.
"But I believe it's never too late, Unifrance has been promoting French cinema throughout the world for years.While they have done a lot, it's still not enough. We should be proud of our French culture, but we have to also be humble and introduce it to the rest of the world by going out to meet them." Despite having been in the film industry for three decades _ playing numerous memorable roles in the process _ Marceau still finds herself enthusiastic about taking up new and challenging roles in the near future. And with a large number of female French directors around, we can expect to watch this multi-talented leading lady for many years to come.
Meanwhile, Unifrance chairman Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, head of the organisation in charge of promoting French cinema, said he wished to see an increase in the number of films released in Asean countries, including Thailand.
In Singapore, 16 French films were released this year, making it one of the top markets for them in the region, with only a few gaining regular release in Bangkok. The film executive noted there was a slow but steady increase in the number of French films unveiled in this part of the world.
Clermont-Tonnerre admitted that apart from the rising popularity of local movies, American flicks posed the biggest challenge for French films in Southeast Asia.
"For us, we would like to be viewed as a small alternative to American films. With our varying histories and story plots, French movies are not just about France but also Europe as a whole. So this really is where our movies stand out from the rest of them."
Clermont-Tonnerre is keen to address the discrepancy between the number of French releases in Thailand compared to Singapore. He hopes French cinema will make its presence felt in the near future with extra events being held in the Kingdom.
Marceau poses for the cameras on the red carpet.
About the author
- Writer: Yvonne Bohwongprasert