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Cannes: Sony Classics Buys Festival Sensation ‘Toni Erdmann’

Director Maren Ade’s father-daughter story won sustained applause and rapturous reviews when it debuted on Friday

The North American and Latin American rights to German director Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann,” which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday night to rapturous reviews, have been acquired by Sony Pictures Classics.

The film tells the story of a free-spirited man who’s afraid his grown daughter is becoming too driven and corporate, and goes to elaborate lengths to loosen her up. While largely dramatic, Ade’s film contains a substantial amount of humor, including an extended sequence late in the film performed by lead actress Sandra Hüller completely in the nude.

After its first press screening in the Salle Debussy, which was greeted with sustained applause, TheWrap called “Toni Erdmann” “the most delightful surprise of the festival so far,” and added, “Ade has made a generous, hysterically funny but deeply touching father-daughter story that lasts for two hours and 42 minutes but never drags and feels far less than that.”

Sony Classics chiefs Michael Barker and Tom Bernard routinely acquire films at Cannes that go on to represent their home countries in the Oscar foreign-language race — where “Toni Erdmann,” provided it is chosen as Germany’s submission, appears likely to appeal to Academy voters. They picked up the German drama “The Lives of Others” at Cannes in 2006, and it went on to win the Oscar the following year.

Before the festival began, Sony Classics also acquired the Paul Verhoeven film “Elle,” which premieres in Cannes on Saturday.