'Va Savoir!,' 'Quitting' join slate

CANNES — While Miramax Films has been seen as the prime wheeler-dealer on the Croisette, doing business with Roberto Benigni and Phillip Noyce, Sony Pictures Classics has been tossing around some coin of its own.

Palm D’Or contender “Va Savoir!” by director Jacques Rivette tops the title SPC has picked up. Sony Classics bought North American Rights to the pic, closing a mid-six-figure deal with Paris-based sales company Celluloid Dreams.

Film centers on a young French theater actress, and has been compared to Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night,” though it’s set in the theater not the film world.

SPC has also acquired U.S., Australia and New Zealand distribution rights to Zhang Yang’s “Quitting,” from Fortissimo Film Sales, and is in final negotiations on North American rights to Eric Rohmer’s $5.3 million “L’Anglaise et le duc” (The Lady and the Duke), from Pathe Intl.

Another big pickup was made by United Artists, who paid some $1 million for the buzz-worthy Bosnian competition entry “No Man’s Land.” U.K.-based the Sales Co. reps the debut feature from Danis Tanovic.

Meanwhile, in a deal that signals its return to the acquisition ranks, Italian distributor Cecchi Gori Group has ponied up about $5 million to take all Italo distribution rights to Michael Mann’s biopic “Ali” from U.S.-based indie production and distribution company Initial Entertainment Group.

Cecchi Gori acquisitions activity had been on hold for more than a year while it struggled with cash-flow problems.

“Ali,” budgeted at $105 million, is being released by Columbia Pictures in North America, with IEG handling international territories.

Other handshakes completed on the Croisette include:

  • Fox Searchlight Pictures picking up worldwide distribution rights including North America for north of $1 million to “Kissing Jessica Stein,” a romantic comedy that took the audience award at the Independent Feature Project/West Los Angeles Film Festival. Pic is the story of a young woman frustrated at her inability to find love who embarks on a series of disastrous first dates before answering a promising personal ad. The ad was placed, as it turns out, by another woman.

  • Fireworks Pictures has taken North American rights to New Zealand Directors Fortnight player “Rain.” The coming-of-age tale marks the feature film debut of New Zealand TV commercial director Christine Jeffs.

  • USA Films has paid less than $1 million to acquire domestic distribution rights to Mira Nair’s ensemble comedy “Monsoon Wedding.” Pic, produced by Caroline Baron and Nair and written by Sabrina Dhawan, is set in Nair’s Punjabi culture where ancient tradition and dot-com modernity combine for a wedding ceremony.

  • New Yorker Films has picked up Roy Andersson’s “Songs From the Second Floor” for domestic distribution.

    Sharing the Special Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes fest, “Songs” was some four years in the making and is described by Andersson as “an episodic slice-of-life pastiche of modern, urban society.” It is the Swedish director’s first film in 25 years.

  • Los Angeles-based Sceneries Intl. has acquired worldwide rights (outside co-producing countries) to Fernando Solanas’ “Aphrodite: The Taste of Love,” based on a best-selling recipe book by Latin American novelist Isabel Allende, “Aphrodite, Stories, Recipes and Their Aphrodisiacs.”

Stephen Rea has been confirmed in a lead role, along with other key cast: Cecilia Roth, Marisa Paredes, Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Angela Correa. Principal photography on the $5.2 million pic begins Aug. 27 in France, Spain, Switzerland and Argentina.

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