From a mysterious death in the snow-covered Alps to a sweltering hot romp through the island paradise of Madagascar, French producer Marie-Ange Luciani has had an adventurous year.
Her Paris-based production house Les Films de Pierre is behind Justine Triet’s awards season contender Anatomy Of A Fall and Robin Campillo’s San Sebastian competition title Red Island and has a bevy of buzzy projects on its upcoming slate.
Despite the thermal shock of jumping from the equatorial climate of Madagascar to the freezing temperatures of mountain peaks, Luciani tells Screen: “Difficulties during shooting become great adventures. If it’s not challenging, it’s boring.”
Red Island was the first film to shoot in Madagascar in 35 years, and the lack of infrastructure definitely posed challenges for Campillo’s fourth feature.
“We brought all the materials from France, they had absolutely nothing there,” says Luciani of a location shoot that lasted two-and-a-half month at the tail end of 2021. “We bought refrigerated vans and turned them into trailers and we constructed hair and make-up facilities.”
Due to the pandemic, the airport in Madagascar was closed so once they arrived, the cast and crew were unable to leave. “I did get scared several times because I had taken a major financial and personal risk with the film,” admits the producer.
Following a few pandemic-fuelled pauses, Luciani wrapped production on Red Island in January 2022 and headed to the Alps and to Western France to start shooting Anatomy Of A Fall in March of the same year, which posed a different sort of challenge.
Triet’s feature – also her fourth – blends genres (courtroom drama, relationship story, mystery thriller) and languages (French, English), while hopping between locations (a courthouse and a chalet) and time (the day of the death to the trial a year later). For Luciani, keeping track of the production’s complexities was invigorating: “I like when things are complicated and force me to learn something new.”
After Anatomy Of A Fall won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last May, Luciani began production on Claire Burger’s Langue Etrangère, a co-production with Germany’s Razor Film and Belgium’s Les Films du Fleuve. The film, which stars Chiara Mastroianni and Nina Hoss, also shot in two languages and is set between Leipzig and Strasbourg with cast and crew from both countries.
Born in Corsica, 44-year-old Luciani started her career at French distributor Ad Vitam before joining Les Films de Pierre in 2011, the company founded by famed fashion executive Pierre Bergé to produce L’Amour Fou, Pierre Thoretton’s 2010 documentary about Bergé and longtime love Yves Saint Laurent.
“He gave me the keys to the house,” says Luciani, who took the production reins at the company and went on to spearhead projects including Campillo’s second and third features, Eastern Boys (2014) and 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017).
The latter won a slew of awards in Cannes including the grand prize of the jury and the Queer Palm. Luciani took over the company in 2018 after Bergé died and now has a team of six people under her wing.
In addition to Burger, Triet and Ursula Meier’s The Line which played in Berlin competition in 2022, Luciani is producing upcoming films from some of France’s most acclaimed female filmmakers.
They include Lea Mysius’ third feature, an adaptation of Laurent Mauvignier’s best-selling French thriller Histoires De La Nuit (The Birthday Party) produced with Jean-Louis Livi’s F Comme Film, currently in pre-production with a shoot planned for 2024; Canadian filmmaker Monia Chokri’s next film, a Franco-Canadian co-production, alongside Xavier Dolan’s longtime producer Nancy Grant; and a debut feature from Helene Rosselet-Ruiz’ titled Les Mains Sales.
She will also reunite with Les Films de Pelleas’ David Thion to produce Triet’s next feature, which is in early development.
Other projects on her slate include Campillo’s next project Maison Alpha and Laurent Cantet’s Enzo which he co-wrote with Campillo. Les Films de Pierre is also producing animated film Marie Angelique, co-directed by Gilles Marchand and Dgibrill Glissant, plus another first feature Sud from Lean Lou Bernard.
While the films under her production banner all differ in form and substance, Luciani says her editorial line “is the filmmakers themselves. I work with people I love whose work I love and that guides every decision I make.”
She adds: “They are also films that resonate with strong political and social dimensions.”
While she and Thion aren’t a couple, joining forces to produce Anatomy Of A Fall did enhance the strong couples’ energy around the project.
“Justine co-wrote the script with [real-life partner] Arthur [Harari] so she liked the idea of a female and male producer coming together for the film,” says Luciani, who had previously boarded Triet’s Sibyl, which Thion produced, as a co-producer. “At the end of filming [Sibyl], Justine asked if I wanted to produce her next film.”
Luciani thinks she meshes well with Thion because “we’re very different. We embraced the complexity of the film with our two very different approaches. David is more like Arthur and I am more like Justine, so we’re very complementary.”
The synergy between the entire cast and crew, she says, made for a “joyous shoot” on the €6m-budgeted production. “Each film is like a marriage that lasts four years so it’s better if everyone likes each other and it’s a pleasurable experience,” she smiles.
Following its Palme d’Or win, Anatomy Of A Fall has been powering through awards season, winning two Golden Globes (for screenplay and non-English-language feature) and five European Film Awards (film, director, actress for Sandra Huller, screenplay and editing) among a number of other accolades.
It’s also looking certain to feature prominently in both the Bafta and Oscar nominations (especially, in the case of the latter, with Neon in its corner as US distributor – the company that steered Parasite to its historic success).
Anatomy Of A Fall has sold more than 1.3 million tickets at the French box office for distributor Le Pacte and upwards of 1 million tickets in international markets including the US and the UK, where Picturehouse initially had the rights before joining with Lionsgate to handle the release.
As pleased as she is with the critical and commercial success of the film, for Luciani producing will always be personal.
“I’m not a financial machine just there to raise money. I put a lot of feeling into everything I do,” she says. “Maybe one day I’ll get tired, but for now I’m all in.”