‘Arc’ sails to win at Lumieres

Besson wins best director

PARIS — The Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes, honored Luc Besson’s English-lingo “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.” Pic was voted French film of the year.

The Gaumont-produced pic, which stars Milla Jovovich, left most critics underwhelmed, although it grossed a respectable $17 million on its home turf.

While the Lumieres Academy, made up of some 200 foreign correspondents based in Paris, doesn’t divulge also-rans, Daily Variety understands that Besson narrowly beat out Regis Wargnier’s “Est-ouest” for the top prize.

As 1999 was decidedly short of quality French fare, predicting award winners was never going to be easy.

Though he chose not to attend the ceremony, it was a good night for Besson, who also won best director, a prize he had previously picked up for “The Fifth Element” in 1997.

At a ceremony over which Claudia Cardinale presided, there was a big hand for Marianne Jean-Baptiste (“Secrets & Lies”) as she handed over the actress trophy to Karin Viard for her performance in “Haut les coeurs.” Viard is a strong contender for the upcoming Cesars, the Gallic equivalent of the Oscars.

Actor honors went to Philippe Torreton for his widely acclaimed perf in Bertrand Tavernier’s “Ca commence aujourd’hui.” Torreton plays a head teacher running a school in an area ravaged by unemployment.

Daniele and Christopher Thompson received screenplay kudos for Daniele Thompson’s directorial debut “La Buche,” which has grossed $6.6 million.

There was no surprise when it came to the foreign film prize: Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has a solid following in France and “All About My Mother” was one of the top-performing foreign pics of the year here. Almodovar accepted his prize via satellite linkup with Madrid.

Audrey Tautou won best young actress for her performance in Tonie Marshall’s “Venus beaute (institut).” Tautou, one of France’s fast-rising stars, is hotly tipped to receive the same award at the Cesars.

The final prize of the evening went to Romain Duris, who headed the cast in Cedric Klapisch’s futuristic “Peut-etre.”

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