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Roman Polanski Wins Best Director at France’s Cesar Awards, ‘Les Miserables’ Wins Best Picture

Roman Polanski
James Gourley/Shutterstock

As a contentious edition of France’s Cesar awards wrapped, Roman Polanski won best director prompting numerous walkouts such as nominee Adele Haenel, star of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”

Ladj Ly’s “Les Miserables” won best picture as well as the people’s choice prize, best male newcomer (for Alexis Manenti) and best editing.

Neither Polanski nor the cast and crew of “An Officer And A Spy” (“J’accuse”) was on hand at the awards ceremony hosted at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on Friday. Polanski said on Thursday that he would skip the celebration to avoid being “lynched,” but that didn’t prevent a protest by more than 100 people that was staged in front the venue by the advocacy group Osez le Feminisme.

Since bowing at Cannes Film Festival where it won the jury prize, “Les Miserables” went on to win a Goya Award, and was nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. The film is inspired by the 2005 French riots and follows three cops who find themselves overrun during the course of an arrest in a project.

Nicolas Bedos’ “La Belle Epoque” won best original screenplay, supporting actress (for Fanny Ardant) and set design, while Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire,” the 18th-century-set romance, only best cinematography out of 10 nominations. The film had won best screenplay at Cannes.

Haenel, the star of “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire” and one of France’s top actors, seemed like a shoo-in for the best actress nod but the award went to Anais Desmoustier for “Alice And The Mayor.” The snub for Haenel raised eyebrows in the press  room considering that she has been at the forefront of France’s #MeToo movement after alleging harassment by French director Christophe Ruggia from the age of 12.

Mounia Meddour’s “Papicha” won best first film and female newcomer for Lyna Khoudri. Set in Algiers in the 1990s, “Papicha” follows daring young women who refuse to bow down to fundamentalism and reject the new bans imposed by the radical Islamists as the women plan to put on a fashion show.

The best actor award went to Roschdy Zem for his performance in Arnaud Desplechin’s “Oh Mercy.”

It was a big night for films that had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, including “Les Miserables,” “Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire” and “Oh Mercy,” which played in competition, “La Belle Epoque” out of competition, and “Papicha” in Un Certain Regard. Jeremy Clapin’s Oscar-nominated “I Lost My Body” nabbed best animated feature and best original score. The adult-skewing animated film scooped the top prize at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight.

Francois Ozon’s “By The Grace of God,” meanwhile, won one Cesar Award for best supporting actor (Swann Arlaud). The Catholic church sexual abuse drama won last year’s Silver Bear at Berlin.

Nominated for 12 awards, “An Officer And A Spy” also took home best adapted screenplay (for Polanski and Robert Harris) and costume. The film previously won best director at the Lumiere Awards, France’s equivalent to the Golden Globes, and the Silver Lion at Venice.

“An Officer and a Spy” delves into the true story of the Dreyfus Affair, a notorious case of anti-Semitism in late-19th-century France. The film’s French title, “J’Accuse,” refers to the famous 1898 open letter written by novelist Emile Zola accusing the French government of anti-Semitism.

The film’s producer Alain Goldman said on Friday that the team would boycott the ceremony due to what he perceived as “an escalation of inappropriate and violent language and behavior.” Goldman referred to the comment made by French culture minister Franck Riester on Thursday that “an award for Roman Polanski would give a wrong symbol.”

The nominations for Polanski’s film — one of his biggest successes with 1.5 million tickets sold — sparked outrage and contributed in large parts to the crisis that lead the 21-member board of the org overseeing the Cesar Academy to resign en masse. As part of the radical shake-up, the Cesar Academy’s president Alain Terzian was replaced by the producer Margaret Menegov, who will oversee a transition period until a new board is announced in April.

Polanski has been living in exile in France since fleeing the U.S. in 1978, before he could be sentenced after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The helmer also faced recent accusations made by French actress Valentine Monnier, who told the French press in November that Polanski had raped her at a ski chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, in 1975.

Besides the noms for Polanski’s films (stemming from the votes of 4313 members), the Cesars were also heavily criticized for shutting out feminist personalities such as director Claire Denis and author Virginie Despentes from one of the gala events preceding the ceremony. Ironically, Denis was the one who announced Polanski’s best director win on stage, prompting many reactions on social media.

After winning four Oscars and a raft of international awards, Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” won best foreign-language film, beating Todd Phillips’s “Joker,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Pedro Almodovar’s “Pain & Glory,” Matteo Garrone’s “The Traitor,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Young Ahmed” and Laurent Micheli’s “Lola vers la mer.”

For the first time since its creation 45 years ago, there were no Cesar honorees. Brad Pitt was reportedly approached by the Cesar Academy to receive the career tribute but declined. Due to the politically-charged context of this year’s ceremony, several French actors and directors also passed on attending the ceremony and/or declined to present awards, fuelling jokes from the emcee, the comedian Florence Floresti. The emcee also made several jokes about Polanski through the evening, calling “An Officer and A Spy” “J’accuse Pedophile.”

And the 2020 Cesar winners are:

Best Film

“La Belle Epoque,” Nicolas Bedos
“By The Grace of God,” François Ozon
“The Specials,” Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache
“An Officer And A Spy,” Roman Polanski
“Les Miserables,” Ladj Ly
“Portrait Of A Lady On Fire,” Céline Sciamma
“Oh Mercy,” Arnaud Desplechin

Best Director

François Ozon, “By The Grace of God”
Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, “The Specials”
Roman Polanski, “An Officer And A Spy”
Ladj Ly, “Les Miserables”
Céline Sciamma, “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire”
Arnaud Desplechin, “Oh Mercy”

Best Actress

Anais Demoustier, “Alice and The Mayor”
Eva Green, “Proxima”
Adele Haenel, “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire”
Chiara Mastroianni, “Chambre 212”
Noemie Merlant, “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire”
Doria Tillier, “La belle époque”
Karin Viard, “The Perfect Nanny”

Best Actor

Daniel Auteuil, “La belle époque”
Damien Bonnard, “Les Miserables”
Vincent Cassel, “The Specials”
Jean Dujardin, “An Officer and a Spy”
Reda Kateb, “The Specials”
Melvil Poupaud, “By The Grace of God”
Roschdy Zem, “Oh Mercy”

Best Foreign Film

“Pain and Glory,” Pedro Almodovar
“The Young Ahmed,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
“Joker,” Todd Phillips
“Lola vers la mer,” Laurent Micheli
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino
“Parasite,” Bong Joon-Ho
“The Traitor,” Marco Bellocchio

Best Documentary

“68, mon père et les clous,” Samuel Bigiaoui
“La cordillere des songes,” Patricio Guzman
“Lourdes,” Thierry Demaizière, Alain Teurlai
“M,” Yolande Zauberman
“Wonder Boy Olivier Rousteing, ne sous X,” Anissa Bonnefont

Best First Film

“Atlantics,” Mati Diop
“Nom de la terre, Edouard Bergeon
“Wolf’s Call,” Antonin Baudry
“Les Miserables,” Ladj Ly
“Papicha,” Mounia Meddour

Best Original Screenplay

Nicolas Bedos, “La Belle Epoque”
François Ozon, “By The Grace of God”
Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, “The Specials”
Ladj Ly, Giordano Gederlini, Alexis Manenti, “Les Miserables”
Céline Sciamma, “Portrait Of A Lady On Fire”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Costa-Gavras, “Adults in the Room”
Roman Polanski, Robert Harris, “An Officer and a Spy”
Jeremy Clapin, Guillaume Laurent, “I Lost My Body”
Arnaud Desplechin, Lea Mysius, “Oh Mercy”
Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand, “Seuls les bêtes”

Best Supporting Actress

Fanny Ardant, “La Belle Époque”
Josiane Balasko, “By The Grace of God”
Laure Calamy, “Seules les Bêtes
”
Sara Forestier, “Oh Mercy”
Hélène Vincent, “The Specials”

Best Supporting Actor

Swann Arlaud, “By The Grace of God”
Grégory Gadebois, “An Officer and a Spy”
Louis Garrel, “An Officer and a Spy”
Benjamin Lavernhe, “Mon Inconnue”
Denis Ménochet, “By The Grace of God’

Best Female Newcomer

Luàna Bajrami, “Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire”
Céleste Brunnquell, “Les Éblouis”
Lyna Khoudri, “Papicha”

Nina Meurisse, “Camille”
Mama Sané, “Atlantics”

Best Male Newcomer

Anthony Bajon, “Au Nom de la Terre”
Benjamin Lesieur, “The Specials”
Alexis Manenti, “Les Misérables”

Liam Pierron, “La Vie Scolaire”
Djebril Zonga, “Les Misérables”

Best Animated Feature

“La Fameuse Invasion des Ours en Sicile,” Lorenzo Mattotti
“Les Hirondelles de Kaboul,” Zabou Breitman
“I Lost My Body,” Jérémy Clapin

Best Editing

Anna Danché, Florent Vassault, “La belle époque”
Laure Gardette, “By The Grace of God”
Dorian Rigal-Ansous, “The Specials”
Hervé de Luze, “An Officer and a Spy”
Flora Volpeliere, “Les Miserables”

Best Cinematography

Nicolas Bolduc, “La Belle Epoque”
Pawel Edelman, “An Officer and a Spy”
Julien Poupard, “Les Miserables”
Claire Mathon, ” Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire”
Irina Lubtchansky “Oh Mercy”

Best Costumes

EMMANUELLE YOUCHNOVSKI – LA BELLE ÉPOQUE
THIERRY DELETTRE – EDMOND
PASCALINE CHAVANNE – J’ACCUSE

ALEXANDRA CHARLES – JEANNE
DOROTHÉE GUIRAUD – PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU

Best Production Design

STÉPHANE ROZENBAUM – LA BELLE ÉPOQUE
BENOÎT BAROUH – LE CHANT DU LOUP
FRANCK SCHWARZ – EDMOND
JEAN RABASSE – J’ACCUSE
THOMAS GRÉZAUD – PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU

Best Original Score

FATIMA AL QADIRI – ATLANTIQUE
ALEXANDRE DESPLAT – J’ACCUSE
DAN LÉVY – J’AI PERDU MON CORPS
MARCO CASANOVA, KIM CHAPIRON – LES MISÉRABLES
GRÉGOIRE HETZEL – ROUBAIX, UNE LUMIÈRE

Best Sound

RÉMI DARU, SÉVERIN FAVRIAU, JEAN-PAUL HURIER – LA BELLE ÉPOQUE
NICOLAS CANTIN, THOMAS DESJONQUÈRES, RAPHAËL MOUTERDE, OLIVIER GOINARD, RANDY THOM – LE CHANT DU LOUP
LUCIEN BALIBAR, AYMERIC DEVOLDÈRE, CYRIL HOLTZ, NIELS BARLETTA – J’ACCUSE
ARNAUD LAVALEIX, JÉRÔME GONTHIER, MARCO CASANOVA – LES MISÉRABLES
JULIEN SICART, VALÉRIE DE LOOF, DANIEL SOBRINO – PORTRAIT DE LA JEUNE FILLE EN FEU