Renée George, whose short film Le Petit Nuage gets a repeat screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival tonight, sort of worked like Michel Hazanavicius in reverse. The Frenchman who wrote and directed the Oscar winner The Artist, came to Hollywood to make a silent picture set against the 1920s-'30s motion picture industry. George, who wrote and directed Le Petit Nuage (The Small Cloud) is an American who went to Paris to make a silent picture set in modern times in the most romantic city in the world. Oh yeah, George had worked on The Artist, too.
With Hollywood credits in electrical or lighting departments dating back 20 years, including for cable TV shows like Entourage and such movies as Lords of Dogtown, Dreamgirls and Charlie Wilson's War, George was hired as a lamp operator on Hazanavicius' crew in LA.
Like many of those who have worked behind cameras without ever sitting in the director's chair, she wanted to helm her own movies. And like many of these cross-over crew people, she's been getting her films into festivals around the country.
Le Petit Nuage, a sweet (and sexy!) little confection about love at first sight, has two very beautiful people lock eyes at a Paris cafe before making love in the heavens. Screen lovers Joffrey Platel and Sarah Demeestere may still be picking cotton out of their respective asses, a reference you'll get after you see the eight-minute valentine.
The short is actually part one of a feature-length anthology George is making called 7 Short Films About Love. Each silent short film is being shot in a different country; she's already working on number four.
It's come together thanks to much planning, hard work and frequent flier miles, but there have also been happy coincidences along the way. She met French composer
Robert Casal on a plane between LA and Paris and asked if he would consider providing music. (Casal and fellow American George are the film's composers. George met French cellist, concert soloist and Virgin Classics recording artist Gautier Capuçon on the plane in Charles DeGaulle Airport. Gautier was on his way to LA to play three dates at Walt Disney Concert Hall and some in Santa Barbara after that.)
After seeing a rough cut of the short, Gautier agreed to play cello for the film, and his music really does propel Le Petit Nuage's story.
Which is why George wanted him. Having French people contribute to her film was important not because George wanted to avoid costs associated with flying planeloads of Americans overseas but because she wants the work, artistry and notes from those who live in the cities where each short film is set, to give them more authenticity.
But she did borrow one thing from The Artist: her film features a cute little dog, too.
As it did during Tuesday's sold-out French Spotlight presentation at the Newport Beach Film Festival, Le Petit Nuage precedes Un Plan Parfait (Fly Me To The Moon) tonight. I have not seen Pascal Chaumeil's rom-com, but it must be great if it edged out the French one I saw last night at NBFF for the Spotlight slot.
Paris-Manhattan, from writer-director Sophie Lellouche, is a playful romp about a never-married, Woody Allen-obsessed pharmacist (Alice Taglioni). How obsessed? She actually has conversations with a poster of the writer/director/playwright/musician on her wall.
Despite the best advice from the Woodman, the thirtysomething woman is unlucky in love, drawing concern from all her family members. (Jewish-American families will be happy to discover Jewish-French families are just as screwed up.)
Her fortunes in the man department suddenly change, and she must decide between a guy any gal would want to be with or a guy any gal should be with. This all builds to a Marshall McLuhan-like payoff that is very satisfying to her, her beau and the audience.
You'll have to see Paris-Manhattan–and have seen Annie Hall–to get the McLuhan reference.
Un Plan Parfait and Le Petit Nuage screen at 7:30 tonight at Big Newport Cinemas. Tickets are $14. Visit newportbeachfilmfest.com for more details.