French spreading love at this year's fest

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CANNES -- For those experiencing deja vu at this year's Festival de Cannes, the feeling is certainly justified. The same French faces are not only popping up all over the Croisette, but also in the same films.

Gael Morel's Directors' Fortnight drama "After Him" stars Catherine Deneuve, who also lent her voice to animated Competition title "Persepolis" alongside her daughter, Chiara Mastroianni. Mastroianni plays a lead role in "After Him" co-writer Christophe Honore's "Love Songs," screening In Competition. That film features Morel in a cameo role and co-stars Louis Garrel.

Garrel is also in Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's Un Certain Regard entry "Actresses" as well as Honore's "Inside Paris," which screened at last year's Directors' Fortnight and also starred Guy Marchand, who plays a major role in Morel's "After Him" alongside Adrien Jolivet. Jolivet also lends his talent to Micha Wald's "Horse Thieves," screening as part of the Critics Week sidebar, which opened with Bruno Merle's "Heroes" co-starring Elodie Bouchez, one of the stars of "After Him."

Got it?

Coincidence or conspiracy? "Of course, we could never have planned this -- it's impossible to think about," said Morel, who appears briefly at the start of "Love Songs." Honore is his co-writer and friend, of course.

"I'm in the very beginning of Christophe's movie -- it's more of a private joke. I'm the person who says, 'Excuse me, I'm after him,' in line at the movie theater," Morel explained about his surprise appearance, which earned snickers from those audience members familiar with the helmer's other project.

Though the cameo was a friendly arrangement between pals, the appearance was also written into the contract for the films, according to financiers.

"It's not coincidence," said Jean-Baptiste Babin of Backup Films, who financed both "Love Songs" and "After Him." "It proves the lack of creativity in the French film industry today. We have a few bankable stars, so we apply the same recipe to every film."

The French film industry has a reputation for being traditionally nepotistic and cloistered, yet this year's lineup luminaries aren't necessarily the most internationally recognized lot in the movie world.

"It's funny to see a new generation of people like Christophe or me who aren't the most sought-after, talked-about directors," Morel said. "We're here more from perseverance, not because we've always been especially supported by our country. So the fact that we're all here is great. We're not part of a generation of actors and directors the public is used to seeing all over the place."

Babin agreed: "It's nice to see young directors applying a method usually reserved for more commercial movies and to see big stars like Catherine Deneuve playing along with them. It's a new artistic movement," he said.
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