Daily News: Wave of French Films Continues; Winstar Lives and Arrow's "Jane" Deal
by Eugene Hernandez and Anthony Kaufman
>> Desplechin's "Esther Kahn" Leads Spate of French Acquisitions
(indieWIRE/07.31.01) -- After announcing its U.S. acquisition of "Intimacy"
last month, Empire Pictures has confirmed a deal for another esteemed
arthouse title, Arnaud Despleschin's "Esther Kahn." After premiering in
competition at Cannes 2000, the film made the top of indieWIRE's list of
best films without U.S. distribution from that year.
Earlier this year, indieWIRE wrote, "Fans of Arnaud Desplechin (and
many have been cultivated since 'La Sentinelle' and 'My Sex Life...Or How
I Got Into An Argument') would likely salivate at the chance to see his
latest, 'Esther Kahn,' an English-language film starring Summer Phoenix as
the eponymous, emotionally-empty heroine who aspires to be a stage actress
in late 19th century London."
Empire's Ed Arentz could not offer a release date for Desplechin's enigmatic
and enthralling new work, but also indicated the company's plans to release
British director Sara Sugerman's "Very Annie Mary," starring Rachel
Griffiths and Jonathon Pryce, by the end of this year. Empire has released
only two other films to date: French films "La Buche" and "Place Vendome."
(indieWIRE mistakenly reported previously that "Cartoon Noir" and "Fetishes" were among Empire releases; these latter films were released by Cinema
Rialto, known for the current revival of Jean-Pierre Melville's "Bob le
Flambeur," have purchased two other classic Melville titles, "Le Cercle
Rouge" and "L'Armee des Ombres," as well as one previous announced new
acquisition, 2001 Berlin premiere "Murderous Maids," Jean-Pierre Denis' retelling of the story of the Papin sisters, made famous by Jean Genet's
Another French film heading to U.S. theaters, according to Unifrance, a
French film advocacy organization, is Vera Belmont's 1997 film,
"Marquise," starring Sophie Marceau, about a young dancer who becomes
Racine's mistress, which will see a release through new distributor
Constellation Communications. Also, Jacques Dorfmann's recent big budget Christophe Lambert vehicle "Druids" was acquired by Columbia -- who recently put out Mathieu Kassovitz's French actioner "Crimson Rivers" with little success.
The current annual film calendar will end up a banner year for French films,
according to Unifrance, with 59 Francophonic films scheduled for release in
2001 and early 2002. [Anthony Kaufman]
>> Film is Alive At Winstar Despite Corporate Parent's Bankruptcy
(indieWIRE/07.31.01) -- The recent bankruptcy of Winstar Communications
raised questions about the fate of films being released by the Winstar TV
and Video division, yet executives at the company are quick to state that
they are still in business. And a deal is pending to put any lingering fears
and instability to rest.
Financial problems at Shooting Gallery and Offline have many in the indie
community feeling rather jittery and Upside Magazine's August issue calls
Winstar Communications "a black hole" that has billions of dollars in debt
and thousands of axed employees. So, it's no surprise that execs on the film
side would want to change set indie minds at ease.
"While our publicly traded parent company is bankrupt, we are not," Winstar
Film and Video President Al Cattabiani told Amy Taubin in a recent Village Voice article.
Winstar is not ready to announce the details of its plans just yet, but with
"t's" being crossed and "i's" being dotted, news should come soon. "We are
working on a deal to spin off the film, TV and video business from the
parent company and an announcement is expected shortly," Senior VP of
acquisitions and co-productions Krysanne Katsoolis told indieWIRE late last
week, "It is business as usual here."
Earlier this year, the company's Winstar Cinema label unveiled a six-film
slate of releases. Thus far, they opened Jafar Panahi's "The Circle" in
March, followed by Francois Ozon's "Under the Sand" this Spring and Jacques Martineau & Olivier Ducastel's "Adventures of Felix." Upcoming releases include first time French director Anne Sophie Birot's "Girls Can't Swim" and Olivier Assayas' latest "Les Destinees."
"We pay our own bills and we're in the process of arranging independent
financing so we can be a private company," Catabiani told Taubin in the
Village Voice article. "And while no one can fully predict the future, we
expect to be freer to make adventurous aesthetic choices than when we were
tied to a publicly traded company." Reached late yesterday, Cattabiani would
not detail a timetable for the big announcement, only to add that news is
expected, "ASAP." [Eugene Hernandez]
>> Arrow Sets "Jane" for Winter Debut
(indieWIRE/07.31.01) -- Arrow Features announced yesterday its acquisition
of the worldwide rights to Sarah Thorp's directorial debut, "See Jane Run."
The movie, which stars Clea Duvall ("But I'm a Cheerleader") and Kevin Corrigan ("Slums of Beverly Hills"), first caught the attention of Arrow
when it screened at the Slamdunk Festival in Park City back in January. The
film also screened at Cinequest in San Jose and Houston's Worldfest.
"Arrow has always been known as a cultivator of new American indie talent,"
commented Arrow's president Dennis Friedland in a prepared statement. "Sarah
fits in perfectly with other young filmmakers who got their start at Arrow
and later became established Hollywood stalwarts."
Arrow is planning a January release for "Jane." Among the company's other
upcoming films are "Maelstrom" this fall, "Milk" and "Dog Run" in October, and "The Piano Player" in February of next year. [Eugene Hernandez]
>> YESTERDAY in indieWIRE DAILY NEWS: Lot 47 Production Plans; IFP No Borders 2001; and Venice Festival Films
(indieWIRE/07.30.01) -- Today, indieWIRE get the inside word on a new
division at indie distributor, Lot 47. Also, the complete lineup for the
IFP's upcoming No Borders project and new from the Venice Film Festival.