Celluloid strikes dream deals for German pic

Edgy German Competition entry “Elementary Particles” has coalesced into a market hit, with Celluloid Dreams selling the Michel Houellebecq book adaptation to distribbers in 23 countries in one-and-a-half days.

Despite its difficult themes and sex scenes — crix here predicted it wouldn’t travel — some major players have gone for the pic helmed by Oskar Roehler.

Gallic commercial broadcaster TF1’s theatrical distributor TFM will release the film in Houellebecq’s native France — where a French-lingo adaptation of the same book failed to get financing two years ago. Momentum will release it in the U.K., Lucky Red in Italy and Sponge in South Korea.

However, the U.S. and Japan remain elusive.

“I knew those would be the hardest markets. I think they are afraid of the film because of the sex,” Celluloid topper Hengameh Panahi said.

Celluloid has also notched up a dozen sales on another hot title, Sundance winner “Quinceanera,” to Memento in France, Golem in Spain, Theodora in Italy and South Korean Sponge. A British deal is said to be imminent.

As for the deals on “Particles,” Panahi said: “We had our choice of distributors in many of the territories, including France, where a German adaptation of Houellebecq, one of France’s most reknowned authors, is sure to be a big talking point. I can imagine the grimaces.”

TFM, which has established a reputation for handling arthouse as well as commercial fare, scored B.O. success last year with another Teuton title, “Downfall.”

In keeping with the tone of all of Houellebecq’s novels, “Particles” has plenty of shock value.

There were collective gasps from the audience at Saturday night’s gala screening, notably when high-school teacher Bruno, played by Moritz Bleibtreu, ejaculates onto an essay written by one of his pupils. Later on there is an explicit nightclub orgy scene.

Pic’s market success also reps a happy ending for Celluloid.

The company was supposed to handle international sales on the French project by helmer Philippe Harel, who brought Houellebecq’s “Extension de la domaine de la lutte” (English title: “Whatever”) to the bigscreen with the author’s collaboration in 1999.

Unusually, the adaptation rights for “Particles” were carved up in such a way that the French film could not be released in Germany, and vice versa.

When the Gallic project went belly-up last winter, Panahi contacted German producer Constantin here at the Berlin fest about selling Oskar Roehler’s Teuton adaptation.

Houellebecq himself is supposed to be adapting his latest book, “The Possibility of an Island,” which was the object of a unique book and film double-deal with French media group Lagardere.

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