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The Conversation: Producer Sylvie Pialat

The Conversation

The Conversation: Producer Sylvie Pialat

Sylvie Pialat, wife of the late auteur Maurice Pialat, has been producing and fostering vibrant international directors following the passing of her husband in 2003. In 2006, Pialat scored her first breakthrough producing the debut of Julie Gavras (daughter of Costa-Gavras) with period piece Blame it on Fidel (a collaboration which continued on to Gavras’ 2011 sophomore effort, Late Bloomers).

Pialat has been working with a number of auteurs prior to their international successes, many who were relatively unknown outside of France until just recently, including Alain Guiraudie and Guillaume Nicloux, directors she has worked with on multiple occasions. She’s produced multiple projects for Nicolas Boukrief, Joachim Lafosse, and Corneliu Porumboiu, and has also worked with Lodge Kerrigan (Rebecca H., 2010), Lisandro Alonso (Jauja, 2014), and Abderrahmane Sissako (Timbuktu, 2014). Over the past several years, Pialat’s managed to become a trendy surname on the Croisette, and this year is no exception, as her third collaboration with Alain Guiraudie, Stay Vertical has been selected to premiere in competition (previously, his 2013 title Stranger by the Lake was unveiled in Un Certain Regard).

Since 2012, her produced ventures have appeared in a number of notable festival programs, such as Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes 2012 (Our Children), in competition in Berlin (The Nun in 2013), Locarno (When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, 2013), Un Certain Regard (Jauja, 2014; The Treasure, 2015), the the Main Competition at Cannes (Timbuktu, 2014, taking the Jury Prize and later sweeping the Cesar’s that year; Valley of Love, 2015). With her latest Guiraudie title (not to mention Guillaume Nicloux’s The End, which quietly premiered in the Forum sidebar at Berlin earlier this year), 2016 is shaping up to be another impressive year for the producer, while two other projects look likely to pop up somewhere at the end of the year (such as a new film from Joachim Lafosse and the directorial debut of Nadege Loiseau). Below is an overview of five personal favorites from her resume.

UPDATE: Joachim Lafosse’s L’economie du Couple has been announced as part of the 2016 Directors’ Fortnight lineup.

5. The Treasure – Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu
Pialat’s second collaboration with Romanian auteur Corneliu Porumboiu (12:08 East of Bucharest; Police, Adjective) was The Treasure, a sharply observed comedy with considerable political subtexts, premiering at Cannes 2015 in Un Certain Regard. A man is approached by his desperate neighbor to assist him in locating a treasure possibly buried on the country property he’s inherited. Their deal is to split the profits, but neither expects another entity may control the outcome. Sundance Selects released the film in January, 2015.

4. Jauja – Dir. Lisandro Alonso
Pialat jumped on board Argentinean auteur Lisandro Alonso’s film Jauja, a (mostly) period western headlined by Viggo Mortensen as a father traveling with his daughter from Denmark to a strange, uncharted desert. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard lineup at Cannes 2014 and took home the FIPRESCI Prize.

3. Evolution – Dir. Lucile Hadzhalilovic
Hadzhalilovic, whose other half is Gaspar Noe, took a decade plus break between her ominous 2004 debut Innocence and the equally ravishing Evolution, which Pialat produced and unveiled at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival. A group of young boys are raised on a mysterious island by a group of women who don’t appear to be human in this grotesque yet beautifully photographed film from Manu Dacosse, which is reminiscent of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

2. Stranger by the Lake – Dir. Alain Guiraudie
Guiraudie, largely regarded as an idiosyncratic queer filmmaker whose works were largely undistributed or unavailable in the US (the exception being his 2003 title No Rest for the Brave), broke out into major acclaim with this sun drenched murder mystery set in an idyllic gay cruising spot. Recalling the deliciousness of Claude Chabrol as it bluntly observes a group of men engage in casual sexual activity, Guiraudie spins heady subtexts into this amusing yet disturbing tale which was a surprise hit after its premiere in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2013.

1. Valley of Love – Dir. Guillaume Nicloux
One of the last titles to unspool in competition at Cannes 2015, this bizarre, intimate drama detailing a divorced couple’s trip to Death Valley at the behest of their dead son was unfortunately dismissed by a majority of the impatient critical body. Eventually, it’s a title which will overcome its initially compromised reception. This quietly moving oddity, which reunites Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu for the first time since they starred in Maurice Pialat’s underrated 1980 gem Loulou, was just recently treated to a limited theatrical release thanks to US distributor Strand Releasing.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, TIFF and AFI. His top 3 for 2016: Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade), Elle (Paul Verhoeven) and OJ: Made in America (Ezra Edelman).

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