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San Sebastian: ‘An Unexpected Love’ Continues to Roll Out Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

Director Juan Vera chats to Variety on a romantic drama which probes the challenges of mid-life love

SAN SEBASTIAN — Juan Vera’s “An Unexpected Love,” which opens the 66th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival on Sept 21, has closed a new distribution deal with Palace Films for Australia and New Zealand.

The U.S., China, Italy and Germany are now under discussions, said Guido Rud, at its sales agent, FilmSharks Intl.

Starring Mercedes Moran and Ricardo Darin, and Darin’s first production credit at his new label Kenya Films, “An Unexpected Love” is distributed by Filmax in Spain. The latest distribution deal adds to other licensing accords with Eurozoom for France, Big Film for Russia and the CIS, Nachson Film for Israel, and Alpha Films for Brazil.

Wiesner Distribution has acquired rights to Central America, Cinecolor those for Peru, Colombia and Chile, AV Jet for Taiwan, and Feelgood for Greece.

In Argentina, where it was distributed by Disney’s Buena Vista International (BVI), the first feature as a director of seasoned producer Juan Vera – though he’s co-written films in the past – has sold over 750,000 cinema tickets from an Aug. 2 bow, making it, after “”El Angel,” the second highest-grossing national film of the year in Argentina.

“Most buyers made an immediate offer after reading the script. All agreed it’s been a while since they watched one unpredictable scene after another, with refreshing dialogue,” said Rud. He added: “Now that the film is available deals are going down even faster ” Rud said.

Variety chatted to director Juan Vera in the run-up to San Sebastian:

Marcos and Ana keep on telling everybody they really don’t know why they split up. What’s your take on their separation?

I think the right answer would be to say that the separation has nothing to do with their being a couple but is rather caused by existential needs which neither of them is able to nor has the means of meeting. Marriage is a sensitive and limited artifact when it comes to answering questions which each member of a couple make to themselves.

Marcos and Ana’s dates, post separation, are various and variegated, which was an opportunity to vary the style of the film, allow different aesthetics into the movie. Would you agree?

Yes, I agree. On one hand, they usher in more more comedic situations in the second act, running a gamut of situations and searches typical of a separated couple of that age. The first act is more reflexive, the second straighter comedy, the last romantic comedy.

The Patagonik Film Group has made many of Argentina’s biggest recent comedy hits, proving that Argentine audiences have an appetite for national fare. “An Unexpected Love” isn’t quite straight-arrow Patagonik comedy, however, I think. It’s literary, cultured, longer in length and more a drama with shards of dreamed than hard-driving screwball laughter. Could you comment?

We joked on the shoot that this was an “existential comedy.” There’s something to that.  In style, both humor and length, it’s different to  classical situation comedy, and also invites being read on second and turd levels. On some sense, it contradicts what I ask of screenplays I read: There’s no developed conflict; rather what’s really happening is off-camera.

What were your guidelines when directing your debut?

Woody Allen is always on my radar, consciously or not, also the work of Richard Linklater. On this film in particularly I studied Howard Hawks, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder and the sagas of Antonine Doinel from François Truffaut. In each of these, what I valued and what interested me was the “invisible” style of directing. I told myself that the less they see of me in my work, the better the film will be.

Your first feature stars of Argentina’s greatest actors, which is saying something given the great tradition of acting in the country. To what extent, if any, was there room for improvisation? And how did you direct such great actors?

From minute zero we were thinking of Darín and Morán, not knowing if they would eventually do it. That they might accept was really just a dream for me. The process involved lots of table readings to tease out the dialogue, but there was no improvisation. When I see the film now, I sum it all up as a strange and wonderful process. I see them as characters speaking words that aren’t mine, but at the same time when I look at the text those are still my words. It’s their interpretation of those words that is the most extraordinary part of what they did. Working with them was extremely pleasant, everything was in harmony. They are both so intelligent and generous.

After success, do you plan to direct any time soon in the future?

I hope so! Although they do say the second film is the most difficult. But I hope it won’t be too long before then.

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