Pic centers on 19th-century neurologist

PARIS — Music Box Films has acquired all U.S. rights to Alice Winocour’s feature debut “Augustine,” which bowed in Cannes’ Critics Week and played at Toronto fest.

The period drama toplines Vincent Lindon (“Mademoiselle Chambon”), Soko (“In the Beginning”) and Chiara Mastroianni (“The Beloved”).

Based on a real story, the film turns on the unusual relationship between Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot, the pioneering 19th century French neurologist and his star patient. Soko, a singer-turned-actress, toplines as a 19-year-old illiterate kitchen maid who suffered an inexplicable seizure, which left her paralyzed on her right side.

“We’re looking forward to sharing Alice Winocour’s first feature with U.S. audiences,” said Ed Arentz, managing director of Music Box. “It’s a fascinating story of 19th-century psychology and sexuality from a distinctive 21st century sensibility.”

Variety’s Leslie Felerpin wrote in her review that “Augustine” provided “a coolly febrile study of madness, Victorian sexual politics and power.”

Pic was produced by Dharamsala Prod., in co-production with Arp Selection.

“Augustine,” which has earned a Cesar nomination for best first film, will make its Stateside debut at Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous With French Cinema festival this March.

Music Box will roll out the pic in theaters in the spring.

Deal was negotiated by Kinology head Gregoire Melin and Music Box’s prexy William Schopf and Arentz.

Music Box and Kinology have previously collaborated on the release of “Mesrine: Killer Instinct,” “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1″ and “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life.”

Other French releases handled by Music Box include Michel Hazanavicius’ “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies,” Guillaume Canet’s “Tell No One,” Michel Leclerc’s “The Names of Love” and Francois Ozon’s “Potiche.”

The Rendez-Vous With French Cinema festival runs Feb. 28-Mar. 8 in New York.

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