(PARIS) Here’s guessing you’re not going to see French cinéaste Abdellatif Kechiche and producer/distributor Marin Karmitz enjoying onion soup together at Le Sélect anytime soon.
A court in France ruled that Palme D’Or recipient Kechiche (“Blue is the warmest color,” a.k.a. “La vie D’Adèle” in the original French title) did not fulfill the terms of the contract that bound him to MK2, the distribution and exhibition company that was founded and formerly run by Karmitz (his son and daughter are now in charge). The court ruling was handed down in mid-January of this year but was only announced publicly this week.
MK2’s library, a who’s-who of visionaries of cinema, includes films by Chaplin, Truffaut, Lynch, Altman, Wenders, Kieslowski, Resnais, Carné, Haneke, Chabrol, Chatiliez, Bresson, Kiarostami and the Taviani brothers.
Following the undisputed success of his 2007 film “The Secret of the Grain” (the film earned more Cesars—the equivalent of the Oscars—than any other contender that year) Kechiche was supposed to continue working with Pathé but the contract that was in place between him and that other eminent French distributor was broken, without explanation. This gave Kechiche the leeway to ink a three-picture deal with MK2 in April 2008, that which was publicized during the Cannes Festival two months later.
The deal yielded slim pickins. Only one film, “Black Venus,” was made, which would become Kechiche’s only flop to date, “Venus” tanking commercially and getting little to no love from the critics.
The making of “Venus” was fraught with conflict between Kechiche and Karmitz, including arguments over the length and the ending of the film. The filmmaker was quoted by local press as being “temporarily disgusted by moviemaking” afterwards. Ah, the French. So mélodramatique.
Kechiche has since made a brash comeback thanks to the success of “Blue,” a film which earned a truckload of awards and B.O bucks.
“Blue” was co-produced by Kechiche in collaboration with Wild Bunch, the distributor headed by bon-vivant CEO Vincent Maraval.
Kechiche’s success with “Blue” was bound to frustrate Karmitz, who then claimed that MK2 should’ve been cut in. And yet, just as the film launched in theaters Karmitz told one French news media that the movie’s a dud, at a time when MK2 was actually shutting down the production office to focus solely on distribution. So, what gives?
Kechiche’s lawyer commented that, “several treatments were proposed to MK2 [by my client], none of which was deemed acceptable. Truth is, after “Black venus” MK2 had no desire whatsoever to continue working with my client.”
Not one to be outshined, Kechiche himself tried to collect 6.5M euros from MK2 in a claim for “material, professional and artistic damages” that he filed in court. The accusation was thrown out by the judge. In his suit against MK2, Kechiche claims that the pressures exerted by MK2 while he was under contract with them actually prevented him to work for four years.
THE LATEST: This summer Kechiche will begin filming “La Blessure” (“The wound”) in Lyon, France. Film stars Gérard Depardieu.