"Coup de chance" is a French comedy in which Woody Allen's paw shines through, like "Match Point": his characters love and betray each other in the beautiful neighborhoods of Paris, over a variation on love and chance.

The 87-year-old filmmaker, who has so often appeared in the films he writes, playing a character of a depressed intellectual with acerbic humor and full of self-mockery, does not appear this time on the screen.

He leaves his place to French interpreters: Fanny (Lou de Laâge) and Jean (Melvil Poupaud) are a couple of bourgeois to whom everything seems to succeed. He is a shady man, she sometimes feels cramped in a daily life of social receptions and hunting parties.

Fanny will stumble upon her childhood love, Alain, played by Niels Schneider, a writer who leads a more bohemian existence, letting himself be dragged along by the current and begin a relationship with him.

Valérie Lemercier brings a dose of fantasy by portraying Fanny's mother, who will first suspect their affair, and precipitate the events.

- 'Like a European' -

Working with French actors was not difficult, said Woody Allen at the Venice Film Festival, where the film was presented in early September out of competition, explaining that the interpreters could address him in English.

As for directing them, "just with the body language and emotions of the actors, I can realize if they are right or not," he said.

"We had heard that Woody directed very little" his actors, "it was not at all the case," added Lou de Laâge. "Woody knew very well what he had written. Musicality is the same in all languages when it comes to truth."

Woody Allen (c) and French actresses Valérie Lemercier (l) and Lou de Laage (r) during a photocall for the film "Coup de Chance" at the 80th Venice Biennale, September 4, 2023 © GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP/Archives

Shooting in Europe is far from being a first for the New York filmmaker, who has already set his camera in London, Rome or Barcelona, as well as in the City of Light, in "Midnight in Paris" (2011), but with a French and Anglo-Saxon cast.

"I felt like a real European director. I saw all these films years ago, by Truffaut, Godard, Resnais, Renoir, I wanted to belong to this group, and make films in French. I did it!" said Woody Allen in Venice.

Master of comedy and social satire, multi-awarded, Allen finds in any case on this side of the Atlantic a platform of which he is now deprived in his native country.

The director of "Annie Hall", "Manhattan" or "Blue Jasmine" almost no longer shoots in the United States, and success in theaters has become rarer.

For some, it has become one of the symbols of sexual violence. Woody Allen has seen almost the entire profession turn its back on him in the United States after accusations of sexual assault launched by Dylan Farrow, whom he adopted as a child with his ex-wife Mia Farrow.

However, he is not troubled or prosecuted by the courts. And no sexual assault investigation against him has been successful.

Asked about the possibility of filming again in his city, he preferred to ironize: "I have very good ideas for New York! If guys come out of the shadows and say ok, we're going to finance your film (...) If people are crazy enough" for that, "then I'll make a movie in New York!"

© 2023 AFP