Arcand's 'Invasions' takes top prizes

See winners list

PARIS — French-speaking Canada stole the show at Saturday’s Cesar Awards as “The Barbarian Invasions” won film, director and screenplay honors for Denys Arcand.

On his second trip to the podium, Arcand joked, “This is really too much, but I’ll take the trophy since I’m proud and vain.” Pic’s co-producers from Quebec and France thanked the Cannes Film Festival “for doing such a wonderful job of launching the film” and praised sales agent Eric Lagesse “for selling it to every country to which it’s possible to sell a movie.”

Oscar-nommed (screenplay and foreign-language film) bittersweet comedy revisits the characters from Arcand’s “The Decline of the American Empire” 17 years later as one of their crowd battles cancer.

Omar Sharif, who won the actor trophy for period meller “Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran,” joked, “It must be awful for my fellow nominees to think they’re even worse actors than I am.”

“Mystic River” won the foreign film nod. Referring to comments made by Jean-Luc Godard when Clint Eastwood accepted an honorary Cesar from him several years ago, the American helmer sent a message of thanks assuring France he’s the same guy he’s always been and has no plans to sell out or change.

Sylvie Testud, who learned reams of Japanese dialogue phonetically for her perf as the only European in a Japanese firm, won the actress kudo for Alain Corneau’s “Fear and Trembling.” Helmer and thesp reteam next month for “Something Blue,” in which Testud plays an illiterate woman whose daughter refuses to speak.

Visit from papa

Julie Depardieu — who has appeared in some 15 films since 1997 — won both the female newcomer award and supporting actress trophy for her perf in Claude Miller’s Chekov update “La Petite Lili.” In one of the evening’s more surreal moments, Gerard Depardieu snuck onstage and, with an unidentified boy at his side, listened as his oblivious daughter delivered her thank-yous. Visibly startled Julie let her dad make a few spacey remarks.

Vet comic thesp Darry Cowl won supporting actor for donning women’s clothing to play a nosy concierge in “Not on the Lips.” Alain Resnais’ filmed operetta also nabbed awards for sound and costumes. Sound winners thanked Resnais for “the joy of filming in a studio, since, with industry cutbacks, the studios seem destined to close.”

Period romp “Bon Voyage,” which led the pack with 11 noms, secured the male newcomer prize for Gregori Derangere, along with cinematography and production design trophies.

Protesters heard

In cooperation with Canal Plus, which telecast the proceedings live and unscrambled without commercials, organizers allotted eight minutes of the ceremony to reps of performing arts orgs that remain militantly opposed to radical cutbacks in their unemployment and health benefits.

Addressing Minister of Culture Jean-Jacques Aillagon, who was in the audience, Agnes Jaoui declared, “France’s cultural vitality is envied the world over and you’re out to decimate it via a series of absurd laws.” After the award-winning actress-screenwriter-director concluded by quoting President Jacques Chirac’s own pronouncement that “culture and creative endeavors exist in out-and-out opposition to the laws of the marketplace,” the vast majority of showbiz personalities in the venerable Theatre de Chatelet rose to applaud for several minutes.

While police manned guardrails a stone’s throw from the theater, several hundred protestors held banners and shouted, “Aillagon must resign!” before, during and after the 2½-hour ceremony.

And the winners are…

“The Barbarian Invasions,” Denys Arcand>

Denys Arcand, “The Barbarian Invasions”

Omar Sharif, “Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran”

Sylvie Testud, “Fear and Trembling”

Darry Cowl, “Not on the Lips”

Julie Depardieu, “La petite Lili”

Gregori Derangere, “Bon Voyage”

Julie Depardieu, “La petite Lili”

“Since Otar Left…,” Julie Bertuccelli

“Good-bye Lenin!,” Wolfgang Becker

Jean-Marie Blondel, Gerard Hardy, Gerard Lamps, “Not on the Lips”

Denys Arcand, “The Barbarian Invasions”

Benoit Charest, “The Triplets of Belleville”

Thierry Arbogast, “Bon Voyage”

Jackie Budin, “Not on the Lips”

“Mystic River,” Clint Eastwood

Jacques Rouxel, Catherine Leterrier, “Bon Voyage”

Danielle Anezin, Valerie Loiseleux, Ludo Troch, “The Trilogy: An Amazing Couple/On the Run/After Life”

“The Man Without a Head,” Juan Solanas

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