Filmmaker Nicole Garcia isn’t worried about her little drama hitting theatres this summer.

Sure, most cinemas will be stocked with crowd-snatching Hollywood blockbusters, but the 71-year-old auteur insists she’s “very happy” her film From the Land of the Moon is taking on such box-office giants as Spider-Man and Wonder Woman.

“It shows that distributors believe in the movie, that they believe it’s strong enough to compete against the big Hollywood summer blockbusters,” says the veteran French filmmaker. “It’s as strong as these American movies and, to me, my film is like Gone with the Wind — which was a big blockbuster.”

In the French-language adaptation of the popular Italian novella of the same name, Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard plays a desirous dreamer in repressive 1950s France. Coerced into a loveless marriage, she’s sent to the Alps for a medical treatment where she soon falls for an entrancing soldier who revives her suppressed passions and imagination.

“In the 1950s it was seen as more scandalous than today that a young woman would have carnal desire,” says Garcia of the main character’s struggle for sensuality — a conflict Garcia insists is still relevant to women today. “When you have such an intense desire that you vocalize it, it’s always going to be more scandalous.”

Still, a story about a free-spirit pressured to tone down her sexuality does seem like a hard sell in the age of Snapchat and Tinder. But that’s where someone like Cotillard steps in, according to Garcia. Only an actress of Cotillard’s calibre could take a repressive period tale that’s slight on dialogue and strike empathy with today’s moviegoers.

“It’s her greatest role since La Vie en Rose,” says Garcia of Cotillard’s famed Academy Award-winning portrayal of singer Edith Piaf. “In all my films, my characters don’t talk very much. It’s as if they don’t trust words. Their facial expressions are more important and Marion is very strong with her non-verbal language. She’s fantastic at it.”

“To me, the soul is in the face,” adds the director, explaining that silent expression works powerfully in the film and is perhaps Cotillard’s greatest secret weapon. “The facial expression and the eyes — it shows love, it shows hate and you can read someone’s soul just by looking at their facial expression.”

Filmmaker facts: Nicole Garcia

Actress Turned Auteur
A famous actress first, Garcia has been involved in French cinema since 1967. “This is my strongest asset, the fact that I am an actress,” says Garcia of her filmmaking skills. “It really helps (because) I act out the scenes all by myself just to have an idea how it’s going to turn out.”

Vive la Women!
Natalie Portman recently said there are “more women than men making movies” in France. Nicole Garcia has a theory why: “In France the auteur of the film rules,” said the veteran filmmaker. “In Anglo-Saxon countries like the United States, the producer is king and this is why in the States you have more women as producers.”

Love and Hate in Cannes
Garcia has been closely associated with the Cannes Film Festival where she has led the Camera D’Or Jury and premiered several films including From the Land to the Moon. “It’s the greatest film festival in the world,” says Garcia. “(But) like (filmmaker) Francois Truffaut would say, love is a mix of joy and pain and Cannes is the same way.”

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