‘Man’ overboard in Corsica

Co-prod swimming in coin woes, accusations

The suicide of French veteran producer Humbert Balsan has derailed his latest pic “The Man From London” and turned the project into a Euro nightmare.

Production on the French island of Corsica collapsed last week, nine days into the shoot, leaving Hungarian helmer Bela Tarr with 30 minutes worth of film, the European co-production parties with a likely loss of $2 million, the Corsicans with an old Hungarian train and everybody with frayed nerves.

“The Man From London,” based on a Georges Simenon novel, was a complicated affair from the onset: a four-way co-production between France, Hungary, Germany and the U.K., it involved numerous subsidy bodies including the CNC and the Hungarian Motion Picture Foundation and French-German pubcaster ARTE.

Tarr is still determined to resume production this fall, but attempts to get the film back on track have stalled.

Tarr says that after Balsan’s death the Hungarians pumped more money into the production to keep the movie going, but it soon appeared Balsan’s company Ognon was not able to fulfill its obligation after its owner’s death.

Jean-Patrick Costantini is the pic’s exec producer, and his Tanit Films was in charge of the shoot in Bastia, Corsica.

He views Tarr as a gifted auteur who wasn’t up to the task of the complicated shoot, which included clearing the Basia harbor of all boats for two months and hitting deadlines that would enable it to reopen by the spring tourism season.

Tarr blames Tanit for tearing down the set when the cash flow ended. Constantini counters that Tanit is “working every day in harmony with the Hungarians, putting elements of the set into storage.”

Tarr insists he’d rather make a film than end up in court and is in talks with a Gallic company to take over as the French delegate producer.

“I want to stick to our original plan and have the movie ready for Cannes 2006,” he says. “Life and this movie aren’t over yet.”

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