U.S. rights to French Toronto titles in short supply


TORONTO -- While French films are well-represented at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, few of the Gallic in town this week arrived with U.S. distribution still up for grabs.

John Kochman, director of Unifrance USA, the promotional organization for French films, says a vintage year for French films saw U.S. and Canadian distributors acquire a host of titles at Cannes, leaving Toronto as a North American launching pad.

The Weinstein Co. already has picked up "A L'interieur" (Inside) from Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury; "Chacun son cinema," by various directors; and Philippe Calderon's "Citadelle assiegee" (The Beseiged Fortress).

Elsewhere, IFC picked up Christophe Honore's "Les Chansons d'amour" (Love Songs) and Hou Hsiao Hsien's "Le Voyage du ballon rouge" (Flight of the Red Balloon), while IFC First Take purchased Catherine Breillat's "Une Vielle Maitresse" (The Last Mistress) and Jacques Rivette's "Ne touchez pas la hache."

Other pick-ups saw Miramax grab Julien Schnabel's "Le Scaphandre et le papillon" (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly); Magnolia Pictures take Barbet Schroeder's "L'Avocat de la terreur" (Terror's Advocate); Koch Lorber buy Celina Sciamma's "Naissance des Pieuvres"; Roadside Attractions acquire Nadine Labaki's "Caramel"; and Sony Pictures Classics pick up "Persepolis," from directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud.

The few remaining French titles up for grabs in Toronto include Francois Ozon's "Angel" from Celluloid Dreams; Julien Leclercq's "Chrysalis," being shopped by Gaumont; and Alain Corneau's "Le Deuxieme souffle," a gala screening in Toronto available from Wild Bunch.

Despite traditional obstacles for foreign-language films in the North American exhibition market, the recent success of the Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie en Rose" has distributors eyeing the next "Amelie."

"It's exceptional. It just happens to be a good year for French films. It's also a good year in the U.S. for French films," Kochman said.

The Toronto International Film Festival, which got underway Thursday night with a screening of Canadian director Jeremy Podeswa's "Fugitive Pieces," runs through Sept. 15.