Oscar-Shortlisted ‘Mustang’ Tops France’s Lumiere Awards

Isabelle Huppert receives tribute; Desplechin's 'My Golden Years,' Vincent Lindon and Marguerite Frot take other top honors

Courtesy of Cohen Media Group

PARIS – Honing its Academy Award and Cesar credentials, France’s Oscar short-listed “Mustang” topped the 21st Lumiere Awards, whose biggest highlight was a tribute to Isabelle Huppert.

Unspooling at a gala ceremony Monday night in Paris, and France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes and often a bellwether of sorts for France’s Cesar awards, which take place Feb. 26, the Lumiere Awards crowned “Mustang,” from Turkish-born but Paris-based Deniz Gamze Erguven, with the best picture plaudit.

“Mustang” beat out three other best picture nominees for the French Academy Cesars that take place Feb. 27: Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Dheepan,” from Jacques Audiard; Olivier Delbosc’s “Marguerite”; and Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Years,” a Directors’ Fortnight standout.

The tale of five Turkish sisters battling to not be married off by their traditionalist father, “Mustang” also scored the Lumieres’ Heike Hurst award for best first film and cinematography, for David Chizallet, who shared d.p. duties on the film with Gok Ersin.

“It’s both meaningful and symbolic to be receiving these prizes from the foreign press at a time when journalists are put in jail there. Women and journalists are being oppressed in Turkey, and civic liberties are under threat,” said Gillibert on stage. “It was very courageous of Deniz to make this film in Turkey considering the current political turmoil.”

In a major top awards split, best director went, however, to Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Years,” a spirited evocation of first great love, already greeted as a 2015 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight standout.

Confirming her status as Cesar frontrunner, Catherine Frot won best actress for her remarkable turn as the rich but undertalented caterwauling chanteuse in in “Marguerite.” Already a Cannes best actor for Stephane Brize’s “The Measure of a Man,” Vincent Lindon scored actor for “Man” and “Diary of a Chambermaid.” Laced with irony, and self-irony, his read acceptance speech gave something of the measure of Lindon’s humor and care.

“Once you make a film and it comes out, you can’t control the way it rolls out onto the world,” said Lindon. “It’s an experience close to smoking pot. All of the sudden what’s not so good can become terrible, and what’s great becomes marvelous.”

Lindon noted that although he was the only nominee for both “The Measure of a Man” and “Diary of a Chambermaid,” the movies’ directors, Brize and Jacquot, respectively, and his co-stars deserved a salute for their work.

As she should, Isabelle Huppert, who will be seen later this year in Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle,” received a standing ovation for her Lumière Academy 2016 Tribute. A trooper, she stayed to present the best prize award.

In an important mark of recognition for a film banned in Morocco for its portrayal of prostitution, a Moroccan reality, Nabil Ayouch beat out some strong competitors – such as Jaco van Dormael’s “The New Testament” – to win best French-language foreign film, an award he had already scooped for “Horses of God,” and a mark of his standing in France.

In a new category, Patricio Guzman’s “The Pearl Button,” a stunning portrait of Chile’s archipelago, its landscapes and decimated indigenous inhabitants, shared best documentary with Ricky Panh’s “The Missing Picture,” narrating his teen years under Cambodia’s Pol Pot.

Both are foreign directors working on French nationality productions, a sign of France’s support for nonfiction storytellers around the world.

Under new management, headed by Jose Maria Riba, the Lumiere Awards came in at an agile one hour, 40 minutes, laced with humor, and serving as a platform for a dazzling array of young thesping talent. Here, Rod Parodot won male revelation for “Standing Tall,” wiping tears from his eyes; femme revelation went to the ensemble cast of “Mustang”: Gunes Nezihe Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu, Tugba Sunguroglu, Elit Iscan and Ilayda Akdogan.

Gregoire Hetzel took music for Catherine Corsini’s Locarno-admired “Summertime” and “My Golden Years.”

Chizallet’s cinematography award also recognized his lensing of “The Anarchists” and “I Am a Soldier,” three films in three countries which he shot in the space of five months, as he pointed out to the Lumières Awards’ audience.