International buyers flirt with hot titles at AFM

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Sex sells, but it takes a bit of time, especially if you're a buyer stalking the halls at this year's AFM.

One such title is Woody Allen's Spanish-set "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," which is being flogged here by French sales house Wild Bunch. Allen cut a short promo reel of it with no dialogue at all split into three scenes.

The first part, according to one U.S. buyer, sees Javier Bardem kissing Penelope Cruz, the second features Bardem getting hot and bothered with Scarlett Johansson, while the coup de grace is delivered in the third scene as Johansson makes out with Cruz.

"No one is going to buy the movie just on the back of that footage," one U.S. buyer told THR. "Most people will wait to see the finished movie before committing the cash for it."

At least it's one high-end picture on buyers' lips, even if deals are not free-flowing.

But if sex isn't working, there are always laughs.

Robert B. Weide's "How To Lose Friends and Alienate People," starring Kirsten Dunst and Simon Pegg, is close to sealing a U.S. deal, with U.K.-based sales and finance house Intandem Films fielding interest from buyers.

Said one buyer: "It's really funny footage and well written and the cast is good."

Acquisitions executives looking for hot properties certainly seem to be finding slim pickings at the market, which is less than three days old.

The list of top titles is a short one, according to the hunters, but there are others attracting attention.

Filmmakers with form also are high on the agenda for most here, with large packs chasing the limited morsels on offer.

Pathe International unspooled a promo reel Thursday evening for Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' co-directed Brazilian revenge drama "Linha De Passe," to select buyers, all hungry to find out where Salles was going next with his filmmaking.

Previous outings such as "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "Central Station" have helped make Salles one to watch for most international buyers.

And Gregor Jordan's "The Informers," based on Brett Easton Ellis' novel of the same name, with a screenplay by Nicholas Jarecki, also is garnering buzz. The ensemble cast includes Winona Ryder, Kim Basinger and Billy Bob Thornton on the film, which details a Los Angeles in which movie executives, rock stars, a vampire and other assorted characters mix it up.

Essential Entertainment, led by indomitable sales guru Jere Hausfater, is dealing with enquiries regarding its promo reel for the film, which is due for delivery in the third quarter of 2008.

Meanwhile, the Matthew McConaughey starrer "Surfer Dude," directed by S.R. Bindler is tipped by buyers to ride a wave across the world, with the Weinstein Co. waxing deal memos for it internationally.

"The AFM has become all about meetings and promos for any high-end projects," one acquisition executive said. "It's not about new screenings. Its about having to be here just in case."

Gregg Goldstein contributed to this report.
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