Sapan Studios, IFC Films Buy Tran Anh Hung’s Cannes Prizewinner ‘The Pot-au-Feu’ for the U.S. (EXCLUSIVE)

Sapan Studios and IFC Films have acquired U.S. rights to “The Pot-au-Feu,” Trần Anh Hùng’s (“The Scent of Green Papaya”) lush gastronomy-themed romance which competed at the Cannes Film Festival and won best director. The movie is headlined by two of France’s biggest stars, Juliette Binoche and Benoit Magimel, who won this year’s Cesar Award for “Pacifiction.”

“The Pot-au-Feu” was produced by Olivier Delbosc at Curiosa Films and is represented in international markets by Gaumont. 

The movie is one of the first titles co-acquired by Sapan Studios and IFC Films as part of their production and acquisition deal. Sapan Studios is a new TV and film production/distribution company run by former AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan.

Set in France in 1885, “The Pot-au-Feu” follows the life of Dodin Bouffant (Magimel) as a preeminent chef who has been living with his personal cook and lover Eugénie (Binoche) for over two decades. Growing fonder of one another, their bond turns into a romance and gives rise to delicious dishes that impress even the world’s most illustrious chefs. When Eugénie appears reluctant to marry Dodin, he decides to do something he has never done before: cook for her.

The film is loosely based on Marcel Rouffe’s 1924 novel “The Passionate Epicure” about a fictional bon vivant character, Dodin Bouffant, who is inspired by the famous French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. But unlike the book, which tells the story after Eugenie’s death, the film imagines the relationship between the protagonists during their lifetime, their conjugality, subtly expressed in this understated work.

Variety film critic Guy Lodge praised the film for holding its audience “entirely on the pleasures of beauty, vicarious indulgence and, eventually, the human care inherent in haute cuisine.”

“Trần Anh Hùng’s sumptuous love affair with food can only be matched by yet another simmering performance from Juliette Binoche,” said Natalie Difford, head of film at Sapan Studios. “We could not be more thrilled to be working with IFC to bring “The Pot-au-Feu’ to U.S. audiences. Do not come to the theater on an empty stomach!”

Hùng enlisted the help of the famous French chef Pierre Gagnaire as culinary director on the film, which opens with a sprawling 40-minute scene detailing the preparation of a meal. Speaking to during the festival, the director said his “first challenge was to make a film that didn’t look like any others.” Alluding to the opening scene, he said he strived to capture “this choreography in a cinematic way” so that “it would become magnificent, like a ballet.”

Hùng, who won Cannes’ Golden Camera with his feature debut “The Scent of Green Papaya,” said “‘The Pot-au-Feu’ is a film about the pleasure of love, about the sensuality of gastronomy, but also about the work of artists practicing an ephemeral art, culinary art that touches the sense of smell, taste and touch.”

“In making the film, I wanted to create a cinematic momentum and musicality that would touch the viewer like a love song. I’m confident that IFC Films and Sapan Studios will be able to give the film the visibility it needs in the U.S. and bring it to success,” Hùng continued.

Gaumont co-produced the film with France 2 Cinéma and UMedia, with the participation of Canal+, France Televisions and Cine+. Gaumont will also distribute the film in France.

The deal for the film was negotiated by IFC and Sapan Studios with Scott Shooman, Adam Koehler and Josh Sapan leading discussions with Alexis Cassanet and Sarah Keo Kosal of Gaumont.

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