Cesar kudos go to underdogs

Smith receives achievement award

PARIS — Gaul’s prestigious Cesar Awards for film provided a series of upsets Saturday night as prizes were showered on outsiders while big favorites “The Chorus” and “A Very Long Engagement” failed to snag major awards.

Kudos for film, director, screenplay and female newcomer went to “L’Esquive,” a low-budget second film by Abdellatif Kechiche set among struggling young thesps in the Parisian projects.

“When the Tide Comes In,” a first film by Gilles Porte and Yolande Moreau and produced by the recently deceased Humbert Balsan, grabbed first film honor and actress for Moreau. Pic traces the relationship between a female performer and a devoted fan.

While both films were critical successes, they are largely unknown to the average French moviegoer.

Among those in the audience was Will Smith, who received an honorary Cesar for his movie career.

France’s Academy of Film Arts and Techniques gave “A Very Long Engagement” five nods — out of 12 nominations — for cinematography, male newcomer, supporting actress, set design and costumes.

Christophe Barratier’s “The Chorus,” which failed in its bid Sunday night to win a foreign-language Oscar, won honors for sound and original music.

Foreign film award went to Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” while the Cesar for film from the European Union went jointly to Ken Loach’s “Ae Fond Kiss” and Emir Kusturica’s “Life Is a Miracle.”

For more details of the night and the full list of winners see Variety.com/Cesars

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