Par Classics aboard Leconte’s ‘Train’

Pic draws raves from critics, 10-minute standing ovation

VENICE — Paramount Classics has broken the acquisitions drought at this year’s Venice Intl. Film Festival by sealing a multiterritory deal including North America for French director Patrice Leconte’s critically acclaimed comedy-drama “The Man on the Train.”

Par beat two major U.S. distribs that have been circling the film since it premiered in the main Venice competition Tuesday. It closed a deal Thursday that covers the U.S. and English-speaking Canada, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“This is our second time working with Patrice, so we’re very excited,” said Ruth Vitale, co-president of Paramount Classics. “We had a wonderful experience doing ‘Girl on the Bridge,’ so we’re really looking forward to working together again.”

The film concerns a talkative retired schoolteacher and a taciturn bank robber who dream of swapping lives. It stars veteran thesp Jean Rochefort in his seventh role for Leconte and legendary French rock singer Johnny Hallyday. Philippe Carcassonne produced with Carl Clifton as U.K. co-producer.

“We’re also thrilled to be in business with Philippe, who’s an amazingly experienced producer and a delight to work with,” added Vitale, who is eyeing an early 2003 U.S. release date.

‘Train’ heads to Toronto

Due for its North American premiere in a Toronto fest gala slot Sept. 12, “The Man on the Train” is one of the most unanimously embraced entries in the Venice competition to date and among the frontrunners for award consideration.

Leconte’s film drew a warm response from critics and a standing ovation lasting almost 10 minutes at the public screening, with the director, Rochefort and Hallyday attending.

Deal was done in Venice by Vitale and Pascal Diot, director of sales for Pathe Intl. Distribution rights also were picked up in Venice for Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and Israel. Pathe’s own distrib arms will release the film in France and the U.K.

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