Great French films are nuanced, character-driven, soaked in atmosphere and completely baffling to a lot of Hollywood. To prove that point, a young French filmmaker booked meetings in L.A. and pitched contemporary masterpieces of France's cinema as if they were new scripts. The conversations didn't go so well, but the stunt became amusing fodder for a spot promoting French film.
In one meeting, William Fay, executive producer of Hollywood hits including "Independence Day," "300" and "The Hangover," seemed perplexed by a pitch for an explosive love story between two women. "You got these two girls," Fay said. "Who's the villain? Where's the threat? It feels like you need a little more action in here." Later he asked: "Could one of them be a guy, would that work?"
That movie, in fact, was "Blue Is the Warmest Color," which won the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. New York Times critic A.O. Scott called the movie "glorious" and compared its heroine to Anna Karenina, Elizabeth Bennet and Clarissa Dalloway.
The spot by Ogilvy & Mather Singapore will be used to promote the cinema club and other cultural events at Singapore's outpost of the Alliance Francaise, a global network promoting French language and culture in 135 countries. The French institute may use the assets to promote events in other locations too.
Carlo Corbellini, the filmmaker and actor who appears in the video, set up meetings with Hollywood figures who weren't clued in ahead of time about the project, according to Ogilvy. They agreed to be filmed for a behind-the-scenes video for Corbellini, and their reactions to his pitches are comedy gold.
At one point Corbellini made a pitch for a devastating love story about a couple in their late 80s, a film that would "tell the truth about dying." That movie, "Amour," won Cannes' top prize in 2012. "No offense to you," producer Jack Hogan told him. "I love the fact that you came in here and you're trying to pitch this. But it's just not going to sell."