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Cesc Gay, Marta Esteban, Filmax Re-Team for ‘Sentimental’ (EXCLUSIVE)

SAN SEBASTIAN —  Having scored a career high with “Truman” and Canneseries-selected “Felix,” director Cesc Gay, one of Spain’s most popular cross-over auteurs, is re-teaming with long-time producer Marta Esteban, as well as distributor Filmax for “Sentimental,” Gay’s first studio stage film.

Gay’s producer of near 20 years standing, Esteban will produce her eighth title will Gay out of her Barcelona-based Imposible Films. Filmax will handle national distribution and international sales, as on “Truman.”

Inspired by Gay’s stage play “Los vecinos de arriba,”which played to large success in both Spain and Argentina, “Sentimental” will star Javier Cámara; Belén Cuesta, praised for her starring role in 2019 San Sebastian hit “The Endless Trench”; Alberto San Juan, a co-star of Gay’s 2013 comedy “A Gun in Each Hand”; and popular Argentine actress Griselda Siciliani (“The Last Elvis,” “Educando a Nina”).

The new film is backed by Movistar Plus, which has acquired pay TV/SVOD rights to Spain, public broadcaster RTVE, which has free-to-air rights, Catalonia’s TV3, with rights to Catalonia, and the Catalan Institute of Cultural Industries (ICEC). It has applied for central government agency funding from Spain’s Institute of Cinema and Audiovisual Arts (ICAA).

The play and now feature film returns Gay to his favorite tramping ground, contemporary couples’ relationships, as the couple from upstairs come down and explode social niceties inviting their downstairs counterparts to group sex.

As the veneers of politeness disappear, the four-hander sees partner turn on partner with sometimes extraordinary virulence.

“‘Sentimental’ is a comedy which, through two couples — their arguments, loves, squabbles, pain and hatred — underscore just how strange and inexplicable it is that women and men battle and continue to live as couples,” Esteban said at the San Sebastian this week.

In other ways, “Sentimental” points up a director who has achieved a large level of success in cinema, winning five Spanish Academy Goya Awards including best picture for “Truman,” dies not ant to remain within an ternal comfort zone, and is now exploring new ways of expression.

“Felix” was Gay’s first premium TV series;”Los vecinos de arriba” marks his first stage play.

Though the focus is familiar, for Gay “Sentimental” will also in many ways break new ground. Scheduled to go into production in January, and for release from September, “Sentimental” will be shot almost totally on a studio stage — a first for Gay. Usually Gay’s framing and movement points up character sentiment or is used for dramatic emphasis. Here there will be a conscious attempt at careful framing using widescreen to at times capture three actors, Esteban said. “In this film, visuals will be an added value,” she predicted.

To maintain the comedy, Gay, for whom a major pleasure of cinema and now theater has been directing actors, has chosen four players known for their comedic registers.

“The challenge of cinema compared to theater is that actors can’t register the effect of their words and pause if there’s audience laughter. It’s a challenge which Cesc is very interested in,” Esteban observed.

“Sentimental” continues a director-producer relationship with Esteban, which stretches back to 2000’s “Krampack.”

Rolling off a best actor win for stars Ricardo Darín and Javier Cámara, the Filmax distributed “Truman” earned $3.8 million in Spain, $2.4 million in Argentina, and a notable $623,328 in Brazil, where Spanish-language moves usually struggle to make any headway at the box office.

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