Par triumphs in bidding war for ‘Love’ in Venice

Flurry of bids expected for Salles' 'Behind the Sun'

VENICE — Paramount Classics has beat out offers from rival distribs to pay an undisclosed sum for rights in all English-speaking territories, Latin America and Japan to Clare Peploe’s competition entry, “The Triumph of Love,” starring Mira Sorvino — the first major acquisition at the 58th Venice Intl. Film Festival.

And as the Venice fest winds down after a slow edition for tradesters, a flurry of major bids is expected before the weekend on Walter Salles’ “Behind the Sun,” with Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein leading the charge.

The “Triumph” deal, which covers U.S., U.K., Australian and South African rights, was brokered on the Lido by Thierry Wase-Bailey for Par Classics and by Peter Watson of U.K.-based Recorded Picture Co., which produced the Italo-Anglo co-production with Rome outfit Fiction. Medusa Film and Odeon Pictures served as co-financiers.

Marivaux comedy

An adaptation of the comedy by 18th century playwright Pierre Marivaux, “Triumph” stars Sorvino as a princess who resorts to deception and disguise to win the man she loves. Ben Kingsley, Fiona Shaw and Jay Rodan also star.

The period piece marks the first stint in the producer’s chair on a major feature for Peploe’s husband Bernardo Bertolucci, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Jeremy Thomas, Massimo Cortesi, Reinhard Kloos and Thomas Schuhly served as exec producers.

“It’s very exciting in my first experience ever as a producer, to see the enthusiasm of (Par Classics co-presidents) Ruth Vitale, David Dinerstein and their team,” said Bertolucci.

Enthusiastic response

Warmly received by critics in Venice with a five-minute standing ovation at its public premiere, “Triumph” segues from the Lido to the Toronto and San Sebastian fests.

Acquisitions buzz is intensifying around “Behind the Sun,” a Western-style drama of feuding families from Brazilian director Salles, his first since his Oscar-nominated arthouse hit “Central Station” in 1998.

The full complement of key U.S. arthouse distribs were in attendance at Wednesday night’s press screening, including Weinstein, who made a beeline after the showing to talk with Salles. The Miramax chief reportedly has made a hefty offer for world rights, with “Central Station” distrib Sony Pictures Classics also believed to have lodged a bid from New York.

While pic’s producer Arthur Cohn was waiting until after Thursday night’s rapturously received gala public screening to begin negotiations, acquisitions execs on the Lido expect bids to be lodged by most of the significant players.

“The film took one year and four months of planning, 10 weeks to shoot and 2½ months for completion, and we barely finished in time to screen in Venice with enormous stress,” Cohn told Daily Variety.

“Harvey Weinstein came to see me in Paris the day before yesterday with a check in his hand for $25,000 and said he’d given it to any Israeli charity of my choice if I showed him the film in advance of Venice. But I want everyone to see it here, get a feel for how it plays and then we’ll start talking,” he said.

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