Like the Oscars, its French cousin, the Cesars – Gaul’s top film awards hosted Feb. 28 — delivered its fair share of snubs this year. The biggest snub of all went to Abdellatif Kechiche’s bold and intimate character study “Blue Is The Warmest Color” (also known as “La Vie d’Adele”), which was nominated for eight Cesar trophies and only won a single nod for best female newcomer, Adele Exarchopoulos.
While last year’s Cannes jury, presided by Steven Spielberg, honored Kechiche’s movie with the first ever triple Palme d’Or – for the director and its two lead actresses, Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux — the Cesar’s 4381 voters chose Guillaume Gallienne’s endearing comedy “Me, Myself and Mum” for the best film honor (along with four other Cesar prizes), and Roman Polanski with “Venus In Fur” for best director.
“Adele”‘s shut-out sparked headlines in the French media throughout the weekend, as some film journos claimed the Cesars Academy had boycotted the movie, and blamed the controversy stirred by the pic’s stars, in particular Lea Seydoux, and technicians who complained about Kechiche’s allegedly unethical work methods.
Kechiche was a no-show at the Cesars on Friday. He was, however, mocked in one of the sketches performed during the ceremony which parodied his treatment of Seydoux and Exarchopoulos.
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“Polluted by the polemics about his director who was accused of using unbearable methods by one of his star and technicians, ‘La Vie d’Adele’ pays the price,” wrote a journalist on the blog of French mag NouvelObs.
Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval, who produced the movie with Brahim Chioua and Kechiche, said “The Cesars have never been about crowning the best film. It’s above all a celebration of France’s cinema family, and (this year’s) prizes, to some extent, praise the joy and desire to welcome an original and consensual film (“Me, Myself and Mum”) into the family, nothing else. Abdel (Kechiche) and we – at Wild Bunch — never pledged our allegiance to the Family, on the contrary, so it’s normal that they don’t recognize us as theirs.”
The Golden Globe- and BAFTA-nominated “Adele,” a chronicle of an intense same-sex romance, snatched up 43 awards across the globe and received a near-unanimous critical acclaim following its world-premiere in Cannes.
“It’s a simple, even predictable story, yet textured so exquisitely and acted so forcefully as to feel almost revelatory. Always persuasive as a dreamy object of desire, Seydoux nonetheless surprises with the depth of her control; she has moments of stunning ferocity here, revealing Emma as a generous, open person whose hard, judgmental streak is inextricable from her artistic temperament. But the picture belongs to Exarchopoulos, completely inhabiting a role aptly named after the thesp herself; with her husky voice and sweet, reluctant smile, she plays virtually every emotion a director can demand of an actress, commanding the viewer’s attention and sympathy at every minute. Taxing as the 175-minute running time will be for some audiences, those on the picture’s wavelength will find it continually absorbing,” wrote Variety’s chief critic Justin Chang in his review.
Besides the Palme d’Or and the British Independent film nods, “Adele” won a raft of awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, London Critics’ Circle, Chicago Film Critics Association.
Released in the U.S. by Sundance Selects/IFC Films, “Adele” was, however, ineligible to rep France in the Oscar’s foreign-language race because it opened in Gaul on Oct.9 and therefore missed the deadline.
As one of France’s most talented auteurs, Kechiche will undoubtedly be welcomed back into Gaul’s film family sooner or later, in spite of his reputation. His 2003 movie “L’esquive” and 2008 pic “The Secret of The Grain” each won three Cesar awards for best film, script and director.