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Cannes '08: Luggage has arrived, sales have not

May 19, 2008 |  6:23 am

Walter Salles' new film at Cannes 'Linha de Passe' features a terrific cast of unknowns but has yet to secure distribution

By the sixth day of the Cannes Film Festival, most Hollywood visitors had finally received their lost luggage (British Airways seems a lock to win the festival prize for most bags gone missing) and reestablished BlackBerry service (which was largely unavailable Sunday morning, forcing some executives to actually speak to one another in person). But nearly a week into the top international film sales market, not a single prominent movie had sold.

Sellers remained hopeful that American distribution deals soon could be struck for two high-profile movies that already have premiered: Walter Salles’ (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) new Brazilian drama “Linha de Passe,” and Oscar-winning screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) directorial debut, “Synecdoche, New York,” which vaguely rhymes with Schenectady. But the initial buyer reaction has been tepid.

Late Monday night, filmmaker James Gray’s second Cannes movie in two years, “Two Lovers,” will have its initial public screening. At last year’s festival, Sony Pictures bought Gray’s “We Own the Night” for a rich $11.5 million, but the new film may not be as inherently commercial, according to people who have read its script.

On Wednesday, Steven Soderbergh’s two-part historical drama “Che” will be shown for the first time. The Weinstein Co. had been negotiating to buy Soderbergh’s 4½-hour movie combination preemptively ahead of its screening (for a rumored $8 million), but the deal didn’t close.

Screenings of one of the most critically lauded films available for U.S. distribution, the Italian gangster drama “Gomorra,” have attracted a number of American buyers, but several of the distributors worried that the foreign-language market was too tough to justify a purchase. As more companies find similar reasons not to buy tricky films, the cold sales trend seems likely to continue.

--John Horn

Photo: Despite wonderful performances by non-professional actors in “Linha de Passe,” Walter Salles' new Brazilian movie about four brothers, it has yet to secure a distribution deal. From left: Actor Jose Geraldo Rodrigues, co-director Daniela Thomas, actors Vinicius de Oliveira and Kaique de Jesus Santos, Salles, and actor Joao Baldesserini attend a photocall at the Palais des Festivals during the 61st Cannes Festival. Wire Image.