Perhaps more than any other French director, Jean-Jacques Annaud has always felt at home making films in Hollywood, with the American capital of cinema’s flair for the epic and the spectacular.

Now, the 78-year-old Oscar-winning actor behind ‘The Name of the Rose’, ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ and ‘Enemy at the Gates’ returns to Tinseltown with his latest film, ‘Notre-Dame On Fire’ (‘Our- Dame Brule”) – a thriller about the real fire of the beloved cathedral in Paris.

Annaud spoke to AFP by phone from the French capital as organizers of next month’s American French Film Festival (TAFFF) announced on Tuesday that his film would be their gala premiere in Los Angeles.

“I am now close to Notre Dame and far from Los Angeles. But part of my heart remains in Los Angeles,” Annaud said.

The story of the hell that engulfed the 12th-century Gothic monument in Paris in 2019 was “a great drama that only a crazy Hollywood screenwriter could imagine”, he said.

“Notre-Dame on Fire” dramatizes the story of firefighters who risked their lives to put out the flames before the entire cathedral was destroyed – and the mistakes and misfortunes that delayed the initial response.

The film merges real archival footage of the fire with scenes shot by Annaud recreating the disaster.

It follows a security guard who accidentally checked for flames in the cathedral attic when the first alarm sounded, the fire trucks stuck in Parisian traffic, and the supervisor who couldn’t get his bike to work in self-service “Velib” as he rushed to the stage.

“I felt like writing the script that I had a goldmine…it was so weird, so amazing,” Annaud said.

Released in Europe earlier this year, the film shows how millions around the world watched in horror as the cathedral’s famous spire collapsed and much of its ancient roof was destroyed.

Notre Dame Cathedral typically received nearly 12 million global visitors a year, and Americans have been prolific contributors to an international fundraising campaign to rebuild the monument.

“Around the world, this cathedral was much more than a symbol of Paris, or of France, or even of Catholicism or Christianity,” Annaud said.

“It was way above. It was sort of a kind of fear, a metaphor for the collapse of Western culture…it was a symbol of permanence.

– ‘Spectacular’ –

The appearance at next month’s festival continues Annaud’s love affair with Hollywood, which he says often strays from French cinematic traditions in terms of scale and budget.

“In America, I realized that investing is about trying to do the best thing possible and the most spectacular, the most attractive, the most appealing,” he said.

Unlike the French New Wave movement, which emerged in the 1950s from theater and novels and emphasized dialogue, American cinema focuses more on movement and the visual, Annaud said.

“The art of cinema is to tell exciting stories visually. Otherwise it’s a TV radio show, it’s another game, it’s something else,” he said.

“If we have the privilege of being seen on the big screen, it’s to fill this big screen and not just have people talking like in TV shows,” he added.

“I wouldn’t have made the movies I did without the full support and friendship of the major American studios and production companies.”

– ‘Final cut’ –

Other films on view this year at TAFFF, which runs from October 10-16, will include “Final Cut” (“Cut!”) by Michel Hazanavicius, the Oscar-winning director of “The Artist”.

Also on view will be two films recently named to a shortlist of French films to be submitted to next year’s Oscars – ‘The Worst Ones’ (‘Les Pires’) and ‘Full Time’ (‘A Plein Temps’). .

Amazon Prime’s “Hawa” by Maimouna Doucoure, whose previous film “Cuties” was released by Netflix and sparked international controversy over allegations of hypers*xualizing young girls, will also be shown.

The festival closes with “La Nuit du 12” by Dominik Moll and a theatrical screening of HBO’s Franco-American mini-series “Irma Vep”, created by Olivier Assayas and based on his 1996 film of the same name. .

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