Veteran Italian distributor Valerio De Paolis first came to Cannes in 1971 and slept on Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s yacht. At that time, he was working with John Heyman, the legendary British producer, talent agent and film financier who had Joseph Losey’s “The Go-Between” at the fest. There was much celebration when that pic won the Grand Prix. De Paolis subsequently founded Italy’s BIM Distribuzione, known for releasing Palmes, Lions and Bears. He maintains this knack with his new company, called Cinema, which bowed by purchasing Jafar Panahi’s “Taxi” before it won the top prize at Berlin earlier this year.

Got any stories about picking those Palme d’Or winners?

One has to do with the restaurant Chez Tetou. In 2003 (British sales exec) Alison Thompson and I decided to go there for dinner the evening before the festival opened. We met at the Majestic, took my car, and parked in front of the restaurant. I had the bouillabaisse; we drank the Blanc des Blancs. That year Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant,” which both of us were distributing, won. So next year we did exactly the same thing — same time, same parking spot, same table, same menu. And that year “Fahrenheit 9/11” won, also a film we both had. We kept that ritual up and won the Palme four years in a row.

But Lucky Red picked up 2007 winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”?

The magic evaporated, but of course I still go there.

What film do you have in Cannes this year, and what are you looking for?

I have Jacques Audiard’s movie (“Erran”). I need a couple of films for BIM, with which I still have a close rapport, and two or three titles for the smaller distribution company I just launched.