The three month-long disputeover UK distribution of Michael Winterbottom's sexually explicitrelationship drama 9 Songs hasbeen settled with what aggrieved distributor Tartan Films described as "ajudgement of Solomon".

9 Songs, which had its market debut in Cannes and screenedin the Venice festival, will now be handled in the UK by Tartan's rivalOptimum Releasing. Tartan's recently launched US division, however, haspicked up North American rights.

The dispute arose in Junewhen director Winterbottom and producer Andrew Eaton of Revolution Filmsobjected to Tartan chief Hamish McAlpine's press statement that he wouldnot allow Winterbottom to recut the film. McAlpine, a long-time anti-censorshipcampaigner, argued that self-censorship was as bad as artistic restrictionsimposed by outside regulators. He also argued that Tartan had a verbalagreement for the UK rights and had helped Revolution secure France'sWild Bunch as world sales agent on the picture and famously threatened"to sue back to the Stone Age" anyone who attempted to infringe hisrights in either the US or the UK.

Winterbottom and Eaton saidat the time that 9 Songs was apiece of hobby film-making and that they should not be told how to present afilm by someone with whom they did not have a signed contract.

Optimum is believed to beplanning to release the film, which charts the ups and downs of a youngcouple's relationship, on Valentine's Day (Feb 14) next year. Whilethe film has yet to be granted a release certificate both distributors areunderstood to entertain high hopes that the British Board of FilmClassification will pass the film uncut, albeit with an 18 certificate. TartanUS has not yet indicated a stateside release schedule.

Winterbottom is due to startproduction today (Monday, 11 Oct) on Tristram Shandy, an adaptation of Lawrence Sterne's reputedlyunfilmable 18th century comic novel about a man who tries to recordevery moment of his life. The novel plays with narrative structure andWinterbottom's film, scripted by regular collaborator Frank CottrellBoyce, is expected in parts to use the film-within-a-film device.

UK comedian Steve Coogan(who starred in Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People and was last seen In Around The World In 80 Days and Coffee And Cigarettes) is understood to play three roles: Tristram Shandy,his father Walter and Coogan.

The film is one of the firstto use finance from new UK tax fund Foresight, devised by Tim Smith and PaulBrett's Prescience Film Finance.