Almodovar looks tight with Good Machine

Helmer 'Talk' debuts at #1 as he eyes sales deal

MADRID — The ninth straight Pedro Almodovar film has world-preemed in Spain and purred into B.O. pole position. Bowing March 15, “Talk to Her” (Hable con ella), a svelte tale of amours fous, grossed a No. 1 first-weekend $946,491. This despite “Talk’s” lyrical loops in time, its non-P.C. compassion for a rapist and the fact that its two feisty femme leads spend much of the film inert in comas. Meanwhile Pedro and his brother and producer, Agustin Almodovar, were firming up the business side of their upcoming releases.

Good Machine Intl. is in advanced negotiations to handle worldwide sales outside Spain and Canada on Isabel Coixet’s upcoming English-language pic “My Life Without Me,” co-produced by the Almodovars’ El Deseo and Canada’s My Life Prods.

The GMI-El Deseo deal isn’t just a pickup; it looks like marriage, the beginning of a long-term, project-by-project relationship in which GMI will license international on El Deseo pics directed by both Almodovar and other directors.

Once they latch onto a relationship, the Almodovars can be intensely loyal. “We’re a clan. We don’t work with companies, we work with people,” Agustin Almodovar says. Their last sales match — with Wendy Palmer — went through 10 years, five films (“High Heels” to “All About My Mother”) and three companies for Palmer (Manifesto, CiBy Sales and Goldwyn/G2/United Artists Films).

GMI already handled most international sales on “Talk.” “I’m looking forward to extending our cooperation on ‘My Life Without Me,’ ” says GMI prexy David Linde. “Ultimately, the true test is the producer feeling that each film is presented in a positive and pro-active manner. If you consistently accomplish that, then you usually keep on moving ahead together.”

El Deseo is one of several companies with which GMI is working on multiple films, including Good Machine, Hong Kong’s Bill Kong, Hollywood-based Radar Pictures, Alfonso Cuaron and Jorge Vergera’s Monsoon Entertainment and London’s Fragile Films.

As things stand, GMI’s deal looks like a coup for both parties. “Relationships can take myriad forms,” Linde says. But consistent alliances with producers or directors further consistent relations with overseas distributors.

Although his films look lavish, Almodovar is a closet maestro of budgetary restraint. The final credit sequence of “The Flower of My Secret,” for example, was meant to feature a freeze-frame of Marisa Paredes and her potential new lover while a digital log fire flamed romantically in the background. But the Almodovars decided the five-minute effect cost too much, so it was abandoned. The budget of “All About My Mother” came in south of $5 million: it grossed $65 million-plus worldwide. Electing budgetary limits permits Almodovar to be his own hombre. It also allows his pics to be sold at prices that reflect their market value, not inflated budgets.

GMI doesn’t just get pics: It gets Almodovar, who will continue to steer his own international marketing campaigns. Helmer will be talking up “Talk” in Italy, where it bows March 29. Pic also opens the Paris Film Festival April 1.

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