Claude Lelouch making 'Ces amours la'

Audrey Dana will star in director's 43rd movie

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CANNES -- Claude Lelouch's 43rd film has been in the making for decades.

"It's a film I've wanted to make my whole life," the French helmer said of "Ces amours la." "It took me 40 years to write it. I always knew I'd make this movie."

Lelouch began making "Amours" 40 years ago, and he has shot footage for the project on each of the 42 films he's made during that span. Les Film du Kiosque has come on board to produce and confirmed the project Sunday.

Audrey Dana ("Roman de gare") will play the leading role in the story about the five great love affairs in one woman's life.

"I read in the Torah one day that we all have the right to five great loves in our lives, so I decided to make a film about that," Lelouch said.

The main character recalls her former lovers -- two French men, two Americans and a German -- in flashback. French pop star Raphael, in his first acting role, will play one of the lovers. The film features actors both dead and alive since many of the talent in Lelouch's films have since died. The co-stars include Salome Lelouch, Dominique Pinon, Anouk Aimee, Judith Magre and Christine Citti.

"Ces amours la," which translates to "these loves here," spans the life of its lead character from 1940-60 and includes a prologue telling the story of her parents and an epilogue about her children.

The film also chronicles the evolution of cinema, with opening sequences shot as a black-and-white silent film, followed by the introduction of sound, then color.

The film will be shot on a budget of €7.5 million ($10.1 million), not including the €25 million producers estimate was spent during the course of the decades-long shoot.

So why finish the film now after 40 years?

"I'm over 70 years old, and if I wait too long, then I might not be able to make the movie," Lelouch said. "Now is the right time."

Studio 37, the film arm of French telecom Orange, put up €2 million ($2.7 million) for the budget, which included participation from Gallic TV group France 3 Cinema. The film will be released in France by Rezo Films thanks to a first-look deal recently launched between the distributor and Studio 37.

"Amours" marks the first time that Lelouch, who always has produced his own films, is putting his trust in a young production company.

"We've produced eight first films, but we have the sense that we're producing the most modern, inventive, brilliant and enthusiastic director we've ever produced," Les Films du Kiosque producer Francois Kraus said.

Lelouch holds the rights to all the previously shot footage.

"It's a Romanesque story -- it's very musical," Lelouch said of his film, adding that it borders on the musical film genre.

The two-month shoot kicks off June 1 in Bucharest, and producers are aiming for a French released date at the end of first semester, just in time for next year's Festival de Cannes.