French favor outsider ‘L’Esquive’

Popular pix fail to dominate at Cesars

PARIS — Gaul’s Cesar Awards 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 the major prizes.

Kudos for film, direction, 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 best first film and also best actress for Moreau.

Pic traces unlikely relationship between a one-woman performer and a devoted fan. While both films were critical successes, they are largely unknown to the average French moviegoer.

Receiving her statuette Moreau reminded Gaul’s gathered movie biz glitterati that “When the Tide Came In”, a labor of love that had taken five years to make, had never even been screened in a multiplex.

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

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

Meanwhile Christophe Barratier’s Oscar nominated “The Chorus” had to content itself with best sound and best original music. The pic will compete in the Oscars Sunday for best foreign language film and best original song. Even bigger disappointment was in store for Olivier Marchal’s eight times nominated police thriller “36”, which did not win a single nod.

Best actor went to Mathieu Amalric for Arnaud Desplechin’s “Kings and Queen,” another film that had been richly nominated in seven key categories.

Best foreign film went to Sophia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” while the Cesar for best film from the European Union went jointly to Ken Loach’s “Just a Kiss” and Emir Kusturica’s “Life is a Miracle.”

Usually a very Parisian affair, for a change Saturday night’s Cesars’ ceremony had a distinct North African flavor, thanks to the numerous prizes for “L’Esquive”, and the presence of Isabelle Adjani and comic Gad Elmaleh, both of North African origin, who were respectively this year’s honorary president and host.

The best short film also went to North African talent, “Cousines”, by Lyes Salem.

French showbiz workers, who are continuing to protest government moves to change their social security system, also had their moment in the limelight. Actor Lambert Wilson came on stage and read out a speech urging Gaul’s culture minister “defend us” in ongoing wrangling with the government and employers’ orgs.

While Elmaleh tried to bring humor to the proceedings, as is often the case, the ceremony lacked ambiance. Many of the set-piece gags fell flat, despite the involvement of talent like Philippe Noiret and Gerard Depardieu.

Those giving out the Cesars included Pedro Almodovar, Monica Bellucci and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

And the winners are…

FILM
“L’esquive,” Abdellatif Kechiche

DIRECTOR
Abdellatif Kechiche, “L’esquive”

ACTOR
Mathieu Amalric, “Kings and Queen”

ACTRESS
Yolande Moreau, “When the Tide Comes In”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Clovis Cornillac, “The Story of My life”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Marion Cotillard, “A Very Long Engagement”

MALE NEWCOMER
Gaspard Ulliel, “A Very long engagement”

FEMALE NEWCOMER
Sara Forestier, “L’esquive”

FIRST FILM
“When the Tide Comes In,” Gilles Porte and Yolande Moreau

SCREENPLAY
Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalya Lacroix, “L’esquive ”

ORIGINAL MUSIC
“The Chorus,” Bruno Coulais

SHORT FILM
“Cousines,” Lyes Salem

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Bruno Delbonnel, “A Very Long Engagement”

MEILLEURS SET DESIGN
Aline Bonetto, “A Very Long Engagement”

SOUND
Daniel Sobrino, Nicolas Cantin, Nicolas Naegelen, “The Chorus”

COSTUME DESIGN
Madeline Fontaine, “A Very Long Engagement”

EDITING
Noëlle Boisson, “Two Brothers”

EUROPEAN UNION FILM
“Just a Kiss,” Ken Loach
“Life is a Miracle,” Emir Kusturica

FOREIGN FILM
“Lost in Translation,” Sofia Coppola

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