Jeunet’s box-office smash had been up for 13 awards, making it a strong contender to beat record holders Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s “Cyrano” and François Truffaut’s “The Last Metro,” each of which won ten Cesars.
But in front of a French celebrity crowd at Paris’ Theatre de Chatelet, “Amelie” had to share the goodies with Jacques Audiard’s “Read my Lips,” winner of three Cesars including a surprise actress honor which eluded “Amelie’s” Audrey Tautou, going instead to Emmanuelle Devos.
Actor kudos was also an unlikely — but not unpopular — choice, going to the first-time nominated Michel Bouquet, 76, for Anne Fontaine’s “The Way I Killed my Father.”
David Lynch’s Studio-Canal produced “Mulholland Drive” snagged foreign film, beating off competition from Nanni Moretti’s “The Son’s Room,” Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge,” Steven Soderbergh’s “Traffic” and Joel Coen’s “The Man Who Wasn’t there.” Best first film went to another Gallic production, the Bosnian Danis Tanovic’s “No Man’s Land.”
Pics that came away with fewer awards than expected included Francois Dupeyron’s nine-times nominated “The Officers’ Ward,” which won just two Cesars –supporting actor for André Dussollier and cinematography for Tetsuo Nagata.
Out of four noms, Christophe Gans’ “Brotherhood of the Wolf” nabbed the Cesar for designer Dominique Borg’s costumes.
Honorary Cesars went to Anouk Aimée, Claude Rich and Britain’s Jeremy Irons, one of the few non-French stars at Saturday night’s ceremony, who sat in the theater’s front row with Canal Plus Group topper Pierre Lescure, the 2002 Cesar Awards’ president Nathalie Baye and French Academy prexy Daniel Toscan du Plantier.
Other stars included Jean Rochefort and Danielle Darrieux, from French cinema’s older generation, Jean Reno and Juliette Binoche, who’ll be seen together in Daniele Thompson’s upcoming comedy “Jet Lag,” and Fanny Ardant and Chiara Mastroianni.
Even though the awards ceremony is sponsored and produced by Canal Plus’ Gallic pay TV channel, Vivendi Universal chief Jean-Marie Messier — out of favor with French film folk after his heretic remark that France’s “cultural exception is dead” — was not there.
But with France’s general and presidential elections only a couple of months away, Gallic Prime Minister and presidential candidate Lionel Jospin made the first appearance by a French head of government in the Cesars’ 27-year history.
The PM, accompanied by French culture minister Catherine Tasca and Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, must have been bracing himself for some tub-thumping about France’s threatened film subsidies, and concerns about Canal Plus’ continued investment in French film.
But controversy at the ceremony, hosted by TV personality and actor Edouard Baer, was kept to a minimum as presenters and honorees stuck to their scripts and lengthy thank you speeches.
Frederic Mitterrand, nephew of France’s former president Francois Mitterrand, and head of a committees in charge of film subsidy at the Centre National de la Cinematographie, made one of the evening’s few outspoken remarks.
Without referring to Italian Prime Minister and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi by name, the cinephile Mitterrand urged the audience not to “forget that the man who bought Italy, contributed largely to the destruction of the Italian cinema that we used to love so much.”
The evening also had its lighter moments. Comedian Jamel Debbouze, nominated for a Cesar for supporting actor for “Amelie,” leapt on to the stage before the winner was announced, delivered a feverish acceptance speech, grabbed the statuette and rushed off. An upstaged Andre Dussollier, the real winner of the Cesar, took it like a pro.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, “Amelie”
Actress: Emmanuelle Devos, “Read my Lips”
Actor: Michel Bouquet, “The Way I Killed My Father”
Foreign Film: “Mulholland Drive,” David Lynch
Supporting actor: André Dussollier, “The Officers’ Ward”
Supporting actress: Annie Girardot, “The Piano Teacher”
Screenplay: Jacques Audiard and Tonino Benacquista, “Read my Lips”
Male newcomer: Robinson Stévenin, “Mauvais genres”
Female newcomer: Rachida Brakni, “Chaos”
First film: “No Man’s Land”
Music: Yann Tiersen, “Amelie”
Short film: “The First Sunday in August,” Florence Miailhe
Costume design: Dominique Borg, “Brotherhood of the Wolf”
Cinematography: Tetsuo Nagata, “The Officers’ Ward”
Art direction: Aline Bonetto, “Amelie”
Editing: Marie-Josèphe Yoyotte, “Travelling Birds”
Sound: Marc-Antoine Beldent, Pascal Villard and Cyril Holtz , “Read my Lips”