Production is expected to begin in Hong Kong in September for Emmanuelle (working title), a new film by French writer-director Audrey Diwan. Deadline has reported that Noémie Merlant will play the leading role and that Diwan is writing the script with Rebecca Zlotowski.
Merlant had earlier debuted in Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire and in films by Jacques Audiart and Louis Garrel. Her first English-speaking role was in Todd Field’s Tar, which was nominated for an Academy Award.
Audrey Diwan’s most recent film, Happening, narrated the saga of a woman trying to obtain an illegal abortion. It won the Golden Lion at the 2021 Venice Film Festival and the 2022 Gotham Award for Best International Feature Film. Diwan was only the sixth female director to win the top honor at Venice.
As she told Mike Fleming Jr for Deadline: “I love stories told through the body. … I wanted to explore pleasure. I would like to give it back its letters of nobility, I like to film the body by looking at it wholeheartedly but not provocative[ly]. And I want to embrace a grammar specific to the notion of eroticism. Eroticism is based as much on what we show as on what we hide. This is where the excitement comes from.”
Diwan added that her Emmanuelle character would be close to her own age—the French director turns 43 this year—in keeping with her practice of closely identifying with her characters. She was quoted by Fleming as saying: “With my co-writer Rebecca Zlotowski, we imagined a woman who has power, who has fought her way out, climbed her mountain, and built herself an armor too. She feels alone.”
In the upcoming film, the character Emmanuelle is depicted working in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong, a setting where various transitory encounters among strangers takes place.
Diwan is confident in her casting choice for the leading role, declaring that Noémie Merlant “redefines the French woman” by being able to play her characters with “both authority and seduction…[t]he film requires enormous involvement, mutual trust. And I know I found the one.”
The new film is to be produced by Chantelouve, Rectangle Productions, and Wild Bunch International.