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Jewish Journal

DVD Set Showcases Legendary Producer

by Tom Tugend

January 8, 2004 | 7:00 pm

Over a period of 42 years, legendary producer Arthur Cohn has made only 12 films, of which half have been recognized with Academy Awards, giving the Swiss producer the highest batting average in the annals of the motion picture industry. This record has been recognized by the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a star for Cohn, the only foreign producer so honored.

Now, in an unprecedented collaboration, five major Hollywood film companies have joined to release a DVD set of 10 films by Cohn.

Among the six Oscar-winners in the nine-disk boxed set being released this month are the classic "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," "Dangerous Moves" and the documentaries "One Day in September" and "American Dream."

As impressive as Cohn's filmography is the decision by Sony, Paramount, Buena Vista, Universal and Miramax -- normally intense competitors -- to pool their copyrighted films into one DVD set.

"It's as if Ford, BMW and Toyota decided to build one car together," observed one film critic.

Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, said that in his 23 years in the business, he had never heard of such a multistudio collaboration before.

"Normally, there would be endless discussions on how to put the deal together, how to split the profits, how to appropriate the credits and so forth," Barker said. "In this case, all this was less important than our shared love for Arthur's movies and our admiration for the man."

"He is one of a dying breed of great film producers, who is meticulously involved in every phase of a movie and who will spend years to get the results he wants," Barker added. "Nowadays, they list 15 co-producers on a blockbuster, and you have no idea which producer did what."

Cohn is also a man of extraordinary persistence. "I finished 'The Garden of the Finzi-Continis' in 1971, and it was turned down by 36 distributors in Europe and America," he recalled. "It was only after the academy awarded it the Oscar for best foreign language film that it became an international hit."

Another indicator of the influence of Cohn's movies is "One Day in September," a documentary on the killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. It was only after the film came out that the German government finally agreed to compensate the families of the victims, Cohn said.

As a footnote, Cohn's grandfather was the chief rabbi of Basel. Because of his friendship with Theodor Herzl, the first Zionist Congress was held in the Swiss city in 1897.

Cohn is currently working on two projects. One is "The Yellow Handkerchief," which he described as "an old-fashioned love story, without violence, sex or special effects." The other project is "The Ruined Map," based on the novel by the late Japanese writer, Kobo Abe ("The Woman in the Dunes").

Included in the DVD set, "Arthur Cohn Presents" are the following feature films and documentaries: "American Dream," "Behind the Sun," "Black and White in Color," "The Sky Above, the Mud Below," "A Brief Vacation," "Central Station," "Dangerous Moves," "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," "One Day in September" and "Two Bits."

Bonus features include the short Holocaust documentary, "Children of the Night," and segments from Vittorio De Sica's "Woman Times Seven," which Cohn also produced.

"Arthur Cohn Presents" is available in video stores and is distributed by Home Vision Entertainment at a list price of $199.95.

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