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Le Vol des Cigognes (Flight of the Storks) - Three-hour miniseries coming this January

Length : 2 x 90 minutes.
Genre : Metaphysical thriller, dark comedy, initiatory journey.
Filming : October 10, 2011 - December 23, 2011, mostly in South Africa.
Airing : Mondays, January 21 & January 28, at 9pm on Canal+.
Director : Jan Kounen.
Writers : Jan Kounen & Jean-Christophe Grangé, based on the novel of the latter (it was his first, btw).

No worries, it was shot in English (at least for most of it, I think).

Synopsis : A Swiss ornithologist is found dead… in a stork's nest. Despite this loss, Jonathan, the assistant he had hired, decides to pursue the mission they had planned : follow the migration of storks to Africa in order to discover why so many of them have gone missing during the previous season. During his journey among gypsies from Bulgaria, in Israeli kibbutz and to the confines of the Centrafrican jungle, Jonathan, confronted to the blurry/terrifying memories of his past (of which he bears burning marks on his hands), is on the path to a rendez-vous with his destiny.

Cast :

- Harry Treadaway (Cape Wrath) as Jonathan Anselme.
- Rutger Hauer (Métal Hurlant Chronicles) as Kees Sonderman.
- Perdita Weeks (The Tudors) as Sarah Gabbor.
- Clemens Schick (Largo Winch II) as Hervé Dumaz.
- Antoine Basler (Canal+'s Mafiosa) as Marcel Minaus.
- Amr Waked (Canal+'s Engrenages) as Dr. Djuric.
- Richard Lunkuku (Canal+'s Mister Bob) as Gabriel.
- Grant Swanby (Strike Back) as Hank.
- Danny Keogh (Charlie Jade) as Max Bohm.

I will post a trailer whenever one is available, and it should be soon.

It's worth pointing out that it's the second time a Canal+ original miniseries/TV movie has major portions shot in in a foreign language : the previous one is 2010 miniseries Carlos, a biopic on the revolutionary and terrorist Ilich 'Carlos' Ramírez Sánchez, starring Edgar Ramirez in the title role. It was written/directed by Olivier Assayas, shot in French, English, Spanish, German, Arabic, Russian and Japanese in 94 days between January and July 2009 for €15 million.

There have been numerous versions of Carlos depending on the countries, whether it was for theatrical release (abrigded, usually the feature form is around 3-hour long) or TV broadcast. The longest, most complete cut is the one that aired on Canal+ on May 19, May 26 and June 2, 2010 : three parts for a total lengh of 336 minutes (5½ hours), and subsequently released as such on DVD.

Carlos won the Golden Globe for best miniseries in January 2011 (Edgar Ramirez was also nominated for best actor). Both Carlos and Ramirez were nominated at the Emmys in Sept 2011. The 3-hour movie cut of Carlos was uneligible for Oscars (because the content of that cut aired on TV before its theatrical release), but there is no such rule for the Césars in France, and thus Edgar Ramirez won the César for most promising actor in February 2011 - the movie cut was also best director and best editing.

Canal+ has garnered critical acclaim for Carlos, and over the years they have been praised for most of their other original films as well. Most of the time, their motto is to tackle difficult, historical/political subjects — that is not the case with novel adaptation Flight of the Storks, obviously.

After this aparté on Carlos, here's another one while I'm at it, with the list of Canal+'s original films :

- 93, rue Lauriston (1h45min - December 14, 2004) : about the French Gestapo, aka la Carlingue, thugs backed by German officials giving them full immunity to capture jews and resistants. Starring Michel Blanc and Braquo's Samuel Le Bihan.

- Nuit noire (1h48 - June 7, 2005) : on the night of July 17, 1961, 30,000 Algerians protested in Paris for Algeria's independance, 40-70 were killed on Papon's orders (head of Parisian police). Starring Platane's Clotilde Courau and Vahina Giocante.

- SAC, des hommes dans l'ombre (2h11 - November 25, 2005) : about the investigation following the assassination of the CEO of SAC (Service d'Action Civique) in 1981 in Marseille. Starring Tchéky Karyo, Kaboul Kitchen's Simon Abkarian and Bernard Lecoq.

- Le Rainbow Warrior (1h36 - April 3, 2006) : on July 10, 1985, the boat is sunk in Auckland, a French photographer dies in the explosion, but the DGSE (French Intelligence Agency) could be involved. Starring Julie Gayet, Niels Arestrup and Pascal Elbé.

- Djihad (3h00 - November 30, 2006) : in 2002 in Iraq, a volonteer tries to get potable water to a neighborhood, at the same time in France an analyst tries to see if there's a real Iraqi threat while some radical islamists go the suburbs to try and recruit young Frenchmen. Starring Saïd Taghmaoui, Marianne Denicourt, Thierry Frémont and Engrenages' Philippe Duclos.

- Les prédateurs (4h00 - October 15, 2007) : about the Elf affair, a vast politico-financial conspiracy in the 90s, involving corruption in Africa, embezzlement and money laundering, all for the control of oil ressources. Starring Claude Brasseur, Nicole Garcia and Philippe Nahon.

- Opération Turquoise (1h30 - November 19, 2007) : June 1994, UN-mandated French Special Forces are deployed in Rwanda. Supposedly neutral, some militiaries realize men they've trained are leaders of the genocide. Starring Bruno Todeschini, Aurélien Recoing and Les revenants' Frédéric Pierrot.

- La traque (1h50 - March 10, 2008) : in 1971, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld's hunt for nazi criminal Klaus Barbie in Bolivia, where he lived and was protected by the Bolivian government. Starring Yvan Attal and Franka Potente.

- Résolution 819 (1h35 - October 27, 2008) : On July 11, 1995, at the peak of the Bosnian war, Srebrenica is taken by Serbian forces, men are separated from their families, 8000 of them disappear. A French policeman, mandated by International Criminal court, tries to find out what happened to those men. Starring Benoit Magimel and Hyppolyte Girardot.

- Rien dans les poches (3h00 - December 15, 2008) : the tumultuous relationship between a woman and her mother in the music industry. Starring Emma de Caunes, Alain Chabat and Braquo's Nicolas Duvauchelle.

- L'école du pouvoir (4h00 - January 19, 2009) : the lives of several students of the 1980 promotion of the ENA (National School of Administration, where most political men and women come from). Starring Elodie Navarre, Robinson Stévenin and Les revenants' Céline Sallette.

- Adieu de Gaulle, adieu (1h27 - April 20, 2009) : During the May 1968 protests, war hero and President Charles de Gaulle leaves France to think about what his strategy to overcome this social uprising must be. Starring Pierre Vernier.

- Mes chères études (1h41 - January 18, 2010) : A 19-year old student who cut ties with her family prostitutes herself. Starring Deborah François.

- En chantier, monsieur Tanner (1h38 - March 15, 2010) : A comedy about the downfall of a man who inherits a mansion in need to be repaired. Starring Jean-Paul Rouve and Scalp's Annelise Hesme.

- Mon père, Francis le belge (1h31 - November 8, 2010) : A biopic on Francis 'Le Belge' Vanverberghe, the last gangster of the "French Connection" in Marseille. Starring Pio Marmaï, Vahina Giocante and Les revenants' Guillaume Gouix.

- L'infiltré (1h46 - March 14, 2011) : In the 80s, Palestinian terrorist Abou Nidal threatened France. An agent of the DGSE (the French CIA) manages to turn Issam, one of Nidal's idealistic new recruits. Starring Jacques Gamblin and Medhi Dehbi.

- Goldman (1h30 - August 29, 2011) : A biopic on Pierre Goldman, a communist militant in the late 60s who participated to the Venezuelan guerilla, committed robberies and was accused of murders which he denied. He became a polarizing figure. Starring Samuel Benchetrit and Arié Elmaleh.

- Mister Bob (1h43 - October 3, 2011) : In 1964, soldier Robert Denard turns into a mercenary working for the newly-founded governement of Congo, climbing the stairs of power alongside General Mobutu. Starring Clovis Cornillac and Gilles Cohen.

- Yann Piat, chronique d'un assassinat (1h45 - April 16, 2012) : In 1994, Yann Piat, right-wing politician woman, was assassinated by two men on motorcycles. What seemed like a mob contract appears to be connected to politics. Before that, Piat was exposing links between political and mobster organisations... Starring Karin Viard, Jean Benguigui, Jonathan Zaccaï and Pénélope Lévèque.

- L'affaire Gordji (1h34 - June 4, 2012) : Wahid Gorji, Iranian diplomat involved in a terrorist attack in 1986, is freed when several hostages in Lebanon are released. Discredited, the judge who convicted Gorji kills himself. This political entanglement involves left-wing President Mitterrand and his right-wing Prime Minister, future President Jacques Chirac. Starring Thierry Lhermitte and Michel Duchaussoy.

- Les Anonymes (2h00 - Spring 2013) : On February 6, 1998, the Corsican terrorist group Les anonymes assassinates Prefect Erignac in Ajaccio. The film follows the judiciary process following this event. Starring Platane's Mathieu Amalric, Olivier Gourmet and Braquo's Karole Rocher.

Now, here's a look at director Jan Kounen's filmography :

1997 : Dobermann, starring Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Romain Duris & Tchéky Karyo.
2004 : Blueberry, with Vincent Cassel, Juliette Lewis, Djimon Hounsou, Vahina Giocante, Eddie Izzard.
2007 : 99 francs, starring Jean Dujardin, Jocelyn Quivrin, Vahina Giocante & Patrick Mille.
2009 : Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, with Anna Mouglalis, Mads Mikkelsen & Natacha Lindinger.
2012 : Les infidèles - segment Ultimate fucking, with Jean Dujardin, Gilles Lelouche, Mélanie Doutey.

Dobermann, 99 francs and Les infidèles are really worth watching (I haven't seen the other two). Kounen has a very particular visual style, it can be awesome (the three aforementioned films) or not (e.g : Blueberry, from what I've heard, on top of being completely detached from the comic-book series it's supposed to be based on). The first reviews already say that Flight of the Storks is very weird, so Kounen definitely brought his unique style to TV.

And here's novelist / writer Jean-Christophe Grangé's filmography :

2000 : Les rivières pourpres, starring Jean Reno, Vincent Cassel, Nadia Fares & Jean-Pierre Cassel.
2001 : Vidocq, starring Guillaume Canet, Gérard Depardieu, Inés Sastre and André Dussollier.
2004 : Rivières pourpres - Anges de l'Apocalypse. w/ Jean Reno, Benoit Magimel, Christopher Lee.
2005 : L'empire des loups, starring Jean Reno, Jocelyn Quivrin, Arly Jover & Laura Morante.
2006 : Le concile de pierre, with Monica Bellucci, Catherine Deneuve, Sami Bouajila, Elsa Zylberstein.
2011 : Switch, starring Karine Vanasse, Eric Cantona, Karina Testa, Aurélien Recoing & Maxim Roy.
2013 : La marque des anges. w/ Gérard Depardieu, Joey Starr, Héléna Noguerra, Jimmy Jean-Louis.

Thus far, Grangé hasn't been overly successful with the adaptations of his novels, quality-wise.

Crimson Rivers might be the only one that combined both critical and public success, and it is indeed a good film. It spawned a sequel that isn't adapted from his books (Luc Besson wrote it), and from what I remember (I was 12), it's not a mystery thriller like the first one but more of an action movie, albeit a good-looking/well-filmed one. Both films were successful at the box-office, and so was Vidocq, which has the terrible reputation (I haven't seen it) of having been directed by a terrible clipmaker (Pitof, who went on to direct Catwoman).

Grangé's mojo started to fade away with the semi-flop Empire of the Wolves, which again disappointed the fans of the book. And the inevitable happened : his next film adaptation, The Stone Council, was a full-blown critically panned flop. Minus Crimson Rivers (which cost €17 million), all these films cost €23-25 million ($30,5-33 million), which are rather big budgets, especially for non family-friendly films.

Flight of the Storks, even though it's 3 hours, certainly didn't cost that much (it's probably below €10 million). As for Switch, it isn't adapted from one of his novel, Grangé wrote it directly for the screen. It stars Pan Am's Karine Vanasse and Manchester United's Eric 'The King' Cantona. I thought it was a great action-packed entertainment, I like the two leads, the mystery is not overly original and the ending is rather abrupt, but it works well.

Tentative schedule for Mondays nights on Canal+ :

— January 7 : Spécial Investigation (French connections : at the heart of the new mafias).
— January 14 : Above Suspicion - Silent Scream.
— January 21 - January 28 : Le Vol des Cigognes (parts I & II).
— February 4 - February 25 : Maison Close season 2 (8 episodes).
— March 4 - April 8 : Borgia season 2 (12 episodes).
— Spring 2013 : Les Anonymes.

DVD/Blu-ray release dates have already been set : January 31 for Le Vol des Cigognes (no Blu-ray, sadly) and February 26 for Maison Close season 2 (and the first season will also be release on BD).

Sources : Canal+, Collider, etc.

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