Cohen Media Group Acquires 10 Jacques Rivette Movies for North America (EXCLUSIVE)

Cohen Film Collection also advances with Universal on restoration of James Whale’s 1932 ‘The Old Dark House’

Jacques Rivette
AP Photo/Michel Euler, File

Charles S. Cohen’s Cohen Media Group has acquired North American distribution rights to 10 features by French New Wave driving force Jacques Rivette for release by the Cohen Film Collection, Charles S. Cohen, CMG chairman and CEO, announced Thursday.

Marking most probably the biggest deal to go down at the time of Lyon’s Lumiere Festival, where the Cohen Film Collection is one of the U.S’s highest-profile attendees.

Deal also takes in three very early and recently discovered Rivette shorts. The films, which will be individually restored and remastered by Celluloid Dreams, will be released theatrically beginning Spring 2017.

Twinning two of Charles S. Cohen’s defining film passions – classic films and French cinema – deal was closed by CMG SVP  John Kochman, and Hengameh Panahi, president of Paris-based film sales-production company Celluloid Dreams.

Francois Truffaut’s best friend in the 1950s, regarded as the Cahiers du Cinema’s most assertive writer, and its editor from 1963 to 1965, Rivette’s 1956 ”Le Coup de Berger” is credited with bringing the flag down on the French New Wave, whose figures included Jean-Luc Godard, Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Eric Rohmer.

Rivette  was also the first New Wave director to develop a feature, “Paris Belongs To Us,” though it was released until 1961.

“Over the next half-century he created singular works that were as formally groundbreaking as they were challenging – films, often of unusual length, that managed to be both rigorously controlled and loosely improvisational,” CMG wrote in a statement Thursday, citing critic David Thomson who called Rivette’s “Celine and Julie Go Boating” “the most innovative film since ‘Citizen Kane.’”

The 10 features acquired by CMG cover Rivette’s mature period after 1983, when Rivette teamed with producer Martine Marginac at Pierre Gris Productions, securing stable finance as he discovered an artistic second wind.

The titles include 1984’s “Love on the Ground,” with Geraldine Chaplin and Jane Birkin, Emily Bronte adaptation “Wuthering Heights” (1985) and maybe the two most acclaimed of Rivette’s later films, “The Gang of Four,” about four young female drama students, and the four-hour “The Beautiful Troublemaker” (aka “La Belle Noiseuse”), starring Michel Piccoli as a painter newly-inspired by his young model (Emmanuelle Béart), which was reworked by Rivette in a two-hour version, “Divertimiento.”

Also acquired: a two-part Joan of Arc bio, starring Sandrine Bonnaire: “Joan the Maiden: Part 1 – The Battles,” and “Joan the Maiden: Part 2 – The Prisons”; 1995’s “Up, Down, Fragile,” a women’s drama with musical numbers; crime thriller “Top Secret,” again with Bonnaire, and 2003 mystery romance “The Story of Marie and Julien,” with Beart and Jerzy Radziwilowicz.

“These films are an exciting addition to the Cohen Film Collection and will be treasured by cinema lovers everywhere,” said CMG’s Kochman.

“The Gang of Four” will be the first film to be released. Now restored, Rivette’s shorts are “Aux Quatre Coins” (1949), shot in his native Rouen, the avant-garde “La Quadrille” (1950, produced by and starring a 19-year-old Jean-Luc Godard!) and what is described as the Rohmer-esque “La Divertissement” (1952). Anticipating Rivette’s subsequent career, the three films are being screened  at the current New York Film Festival.

The deal announcement comes as, in a major move for horror fans, the Cohen Media Group V.P. archivist Tim Lanza revealed at Lyon’s Lumière Festival that the Cohen Film Collection is working with Universal on the restoration of James Whale’s 1932 “The Old Dark House.” Written by J.B. Priestley, the comedy/gothic horror film stars Boris Karloff, in his first credited role, given his name was left of “Frankenstein,” Charles Laughton, Gloria Stewart, 63 years before she starred in “Titanic,” and Raymond Massey.

“The Old Dark House” was considered lost until director Curtis Harrington discovered material in the late 60s. CFC will be using material stored in the Library of Congress, said Lanza. It plans a 4K restoration, he added.

Cohen Film Collection has also licensed all but major French territories on French director Philippe de Broca’s 1967 anti-war satire, starring Alan Bates and Genevieve Bujold, a cult success on original release.

Of high-profile 2016 restorations, Julie Dash’s 1991 “Daughters of the Dust,” one of the first U.S. films by an African American filmmaker to get general release, screened in its restored copy at the 2016 Toronto Festival. Referenced by Beyonce in her 2016 video album “Lemonade,” “Daughters of the Dust” is now screening at the London Film Festival. Cohen Film Collection has world sales rights on the pioneering film. Liz Mackiewicz, CMG senior VP, international distribution, will be introducing the restored film to buyers at next week’s Mipcom trade fair.

“Daughters of the dust” will have a November U.S. release., Lanza said.

Created by CMG’s acquisition in 2012 of the 700-plus Rohauer Film Collection, Cohen Film Collection to date has restored 35-40 features. It will restore 12-15 new features in 2017, said Lanza.

Major strategic partnerships include an alliance with Italy’s Cineteca di Bologna on the restoration of the near-whole Buster Keaton oeuvre, and a co-financing partnership with the British Film Institute to restore an about dozen British movies under the BFI’s Unlocking Film Heritage, Lanza said.

Cohen Film Collection has also acquired the 21-feature Merchant-Ivory collection for restoration and re-release. “Howard’s End” played 2016 Cannes Classics.  Another CFC restoration, David Miller’s noirish thriller “Sudden Fear,” starring Joan Crawford, plays in the 2016 Lumière Festival’s Hollywood, City of Women section.

Cohen Film Collection plans include restorations of further Douglas Fairbanks, Paul Robeson and D.W Griffith titles and titles from Norma, Constance and Natalie Talmadge, Buster Keaton’s one-time wife.