Witching And Bitching

Movie regarded as a return to form and origins by San Sebastian press

SAN SEBASTIANAlex de la Iglesia’s “Witching & Bitching,” the latest film from a director who helped change the face of Spanish filmmaking, has sold out half the world with key major territories under negotiation.

Spain’s Film Factory closed the foreign sales deals.

World premiering at the Toronto Festival, and then segueing to San Sebastian for its European debut – a now common one-two act between the two confabs – “Witching & Bitching” bowed Sunday at the Spanish festival, where it was received with applause.

A common take, at least among the Spanish press, was “Witching” reps a return to De la Iglesia’s early comedies.

Set in a totally recognizable Madrid for cognoscenti, and loaded with local referents, De la Iglesia’s second movie, 1995’s horror comedy “The Day of the Beast,” was one of the first modern Spanish films to yoke a Spanish comedy tradition, standard genre and American pacing.

In “Witching,” a gaggle of male ne’er-do-wells pull a Madrid heist, then flee towards France, only to fall into the maws of local witches at Navarre’s Zugarramurdi, its millennium-old center of occult activities.

“Witching” is stepped in local customs, De la Iglesia said Sunday at San Sebastian.

Nevertheless, it has closed about 40 territories outside Spain, in near-to-20 pre-sales deals.

In major pacts, Laurent Danielou’s Rezo will distribute in France, Splendid Film in Germany, Shochiku in Japan, Carmen Films in Russia, Alfa in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay and Alebrije/Quality in Mexico.

In Russia, where star Mario Casas is a major sex symbol, Carmen Films will bow “Witching & Bitching” Oct. 17 on 300-plus screens, said Film Factory founder Vicente Canales.

Medyavision has bought Turkey, MCF Serbia Montenegro, Star Films Bolivia Peru Ecuador, and ZON Lusomundo Portugal.

The U.S. and U.K. are under negotiation, Canales said.

“Witching” is produced by Spain’s Enrique Cerezo P.C. Its French co-producer, La Ferme!, struck the deal with Rezo for France.

“The reception of the film has been excellent from the beginning. This is Alex de la Iglesia at his most commercial, the film which has sold most and best since ‘The Oxford Murders,’” Canales commented.

Turning on the war of sexes and love as a power relationship, “Witching” reprises “The Day of the Beast’s” set-up of a horror comedy laced by action scenes. But it ups the ante on special effects.

A climactic scene with a 15-meter monster “could well be the most ambitious scene shot by a Spanish production house,” De la Iglesia said.

“The more local and personal a film, the more it details local customs, the stronger the film. You get the sensation that what you’re watching belongs to somebody’s world,” he added.

Pre-sales on “Witching” seem to bear De la Iglesia out.

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