French sales house Films Distribution is doing good business with an unlikely clutch of films that it inherited from the now collapsed Mercure Distribution.

In Rotterdam it closed a UK sale of Lucas Belvaux' trilogy of films An Amazing Couple (Un Couple Epatant), On The Run (Cavale) and After Life (Apres La Vie) to Metro Tartan, which prevailed over interest from rival Artificial Eye.

Films Distribution, which now operates a sub-distribution label Mercure International, also expects to close a US deal with Magnolia and is in advanced discussions to close deals in Germany and Italy - possibly at Berlin. They were released in France by Diaphana and will be handled in The Netherlands by A-Films.

The three films were first presented at Toronto and have played at the Courmayeur festival, but got a major sales boost at the recent Paris Screenings. They are appearing in the main-non competitive section of the Rotterdam festival, where they are receiving strong word of mouth among buyers and critics alike.

The films were shot together over a period of six months, but vary markedly in tone, the first A Couple is a light romantic comedy, the second On The Run, a film noir and the third After Life, a melodrama. The trio feature an overlapping collection of characters - a policeman, a terrorist and a teacher - and mark the return of Italian star Ornella Muti to a major role. Belvaux, who previously directed Parfois Trop d'Amour and Pour Rire, also acts in all three.

"The order does not really matter, I suspect many distributors will release the second one first," said Francois Yon, co-founder of Films Distribution. "What is interesting is how the three throw up so many different marketing and release possibilities. The trick is to get audiences to watch the first and second. After that it is certain that they will go to the third."

In France, Diaphana released On The Run and After Life simultaneously and only a week behind An Amazing Couple. The format also opens up strong TV and home entertainment possibilities. Metro Tartan stressed the possibility of creating an instant DVD collection as one of the factors behind its acquisition.