B&W silent pic takes best pic, director and 4 other prizes

“The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius’ black and white silent homage to Hollywood’s Golden Age, continued is winning ways Friday, scooping top kudos at Gaul’s 37th Cesar film awards, including best movie, director and actress for Berenice Bejo.

It also nabbed production design (Laurence Bennett), cinematography (Guillaume Schiffman) and music (Ludovic Bource).

Bejo beat strong contenders, notably Karin Viard and Marina Fois, who starred in Maiwenn’s police ensembler “Polisse.”

Speaking to journos backstage, the surprisingly contained Hazanavicius thanked producer Thomas Langmann for his faith in the film, saying, “Very few people believed in it apart from Thomas who had enough innocence and panache to make it happen.”

“The Artist” didn’t have it all its way. Underscoring the good health of Gallic cinema and the quality of the contenders, the Cesar kudos spread wider than at previous editions.

French comic Omar Sy beat “The Artist” star Jean Dujardin in the actor category for his performance as a goofy caretaker in Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s hit buddy dramedy “Intouchables.”

Pierre Schoeller’s political drama “The Minister” won supporting actor for Michel Blanc, original screenplay for Schoeller and sound editing.

“The Minister” opened at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard where it nabbed the Fipresci nod.

“Polisse,” nommed for a record 13 Cesars, took home nods for female newcomer (Naidra Ayadi) and editing (Laure Gardette, Yann Dedet). Ayadi shared the prize with Clotilde Hesme for her performance in Alix Delaporte’s feature debut “Angele and Tony,” which also won male newcomer for Gregory Gadebois.

Roman Polanski and Yasmina Reza won adapted screenplay for “Carnage,” based on Reza’s play.

Spanish thesp Carmen Maura, who played the maid in the 1960s-set comedy “Service Entrance,” took supporting actress.

Christian Rouaud’s “Leadersheep” took the docu award. It explores a farming community fighting the government’s plan to build an army training camp in their region.

Joann Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux’s “The Rabbi’s Cat” took the animation nod. Sfar won last year’s Cesar for his feature debut, “Gainsbourg.”

Sylvain Estibal’s “When Pigs Have Wings” took the first film nod. Produced by Marylin Prods., the Gaza-set dramedy turns on a penniless Palestinian fisherman.

Brit thesp Kate Winslet was on hand to receive an honorary Cesar from helmer Michel Gondry, who directed her in “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Winslet follows a platoon of Hollywood stars, notably Quentin Tarantino, Dustin Hoffman and Will Smith, who have been honored by the French Academy of Arts and Sciences in the past 10 years.

“This honor makes me feel that I’m part of an international film community in which we all get to play in,” Winslet said in her acceptance speech. “I’m thankful to Michel Gondry who was my introduction to French filmmaking.”

Iranian Asghar Farhadi’s “A Separation” won foreign pic. The Gallic box office sleeper hit beat Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan,” Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” and Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia,” among others.

Even though the French kudocast broke all-time ratings records on paybox Canal Plus with an 18% audience share, emcee Antoine De Caunes, presenting for the 10th time, struggled to draw more than a few laughs from guests.

The night’s high point was the homage to the late Annie Girardot, one of France’s most enduring and acclaimed actress best known for her roles in Luchino Visconti’s “Rocco and His Brothers,” Jean-Louis Bertuccelli’s “Doctor Francoise Gailland” and Claude Lelouch’s “Les Miserables.”

And the winners are:

FILM

“The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius

DIRECTOR

Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”

ACTOR

Omar Sy, “Intouchables”

ACTRESS

Berenice Bejo, “The Artist”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Michel Blanc, “The Minister”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Carmen Maura, “Service Entrance”

NEWCOMER, ACTOR

Gregory Gadebois, “Angele et Tony”

NEWCOMER, ACTRESS

Naidra Ayadi, “Polisse”

Clotilde Hesme, “Angele et Tony”

FIRST FILM

Sylvain Estibal, “When Pigs Have Wings”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Pierre Schoeller, “The Minister”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Yasmina Reza, Roman Polanski, “Carnage”

FOREIGN FILM

“A Separation,” Asghar Farhadi

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Guillaume Schiffman, “The Artist”

ANIMATED FILM

“The Rabbi’s Cat,” Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“Tous au Larzac,” Christian Rouaud

MUSIC

Ludovic Bource, “The Artist”

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