Ladies leading Cesars

Leconte's 'Fille,' Besson's 'Joan' nab 8 noms each

PARIS — In what looks likely to be one of the closest calls in recent years, Patrice Leconte’s “La Fille sur le Pont” and Luc Besson’s “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” have received the most nominations — with eight apiece — for the 25th Cesar Awards, the Gallic equivalent of the Oscars.

With the exception of box office hit “Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar,” which received just one nomination for best set, the majority of this year’s Cesar contenders have been theatrical underachievers.

Despite upbeat reviews, Leconte’s “La Fille” grossed a disappointing $3.8 million. Leconte is up for director, which he won in 1997 for “Ridicule,” while lead thesps Daniel Auteuil and Vanessa Paradis are candidates for actor and actress. Pic is also in the running for best film.

Besson is no stranger to Cesar nominations, but is less lucky when it comes to winning. His English-lingo “Joan of Arc” is up for best film, and he received an actor nom for director, an award he won in 1998 with another English-language project, “The Fifth Element.”

Surprise comedy hit of the year, “Venus Beaute Institut” has garnered seven nominations, including best film, with Tonie Marshall up for director, Nathalie Baye vying for an actress award and thesp-to-watch Audrey Tautou named in the young actress category.

Aesthetic appeal

Surprisingly, while Michel Deville is a director nominee, his “La Maladie de Sachs” is not a film contender; that list is rounded out by Jean Becker’s period piece “Les Enfants du Marais” and Regis Wargnier’s “Est-Ouest.” Becker and Wargnier are director candidates.

In nominating best foreign film, the French film industry — which votes for the Cesars — has once again gone for the aesthetic rather than the box office smash.

Strongest contender looks like Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother,” one of the few nominees to have racked up a solid gross. The other nominees are Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai,” Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich,” Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” and Terence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line.”

The Cesar Awards will take place Feb. 1 and will be presided over by Alain Delon.

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