As has been the tradition for a number of years now, the annual César film awards took place on the same weekend as their American counterparts over in California and it is quite a while since the glittering ceremony wasn’t dominated by one or two films
While two films came away from the Nuit des César at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris with four prizes each (namely Marguerite by Xavier Giannoli and Mustang by Deniz Gamze Ergüven), only one of those eight gongs was in a major category. That was the Best Actress prize that went to Catherine Frot in Marguerite.
The film that was decreed Best Film by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma was Philippe Faucon’s Fatima – a choice that raised a lot of eyebrows – but that film won only two other awards – that of Best Screen Adaptation and Best Female Newcomer (Zita Hanrot).
A Slide Show of Some of the Pictorial Highlights of Friday Night’s Nuit des César
There was a touch of rewarding the worthy and spreading the love around at this most fragmented award ceremony. Veteran director/producer Arnaud Desplechin finally got to bring home a César as Best Director, having been nominated three times previously. However, his film Trois Souvenirs de ma Jeunesse (My Golden Days is the slightly less intriguing American translation) was nominated in no fewer than 11 categories and was expected to score higher than just the one gong.
In contrast with the last two years, where films that dominated the awards tended to have also dominated the public’s appetite at the French box office, this year was not the case and most prizes went to the worthy rather than the popular. If there was a common theme to be found running through the winners, it was that of political correctness and international perspective. Fatima was a film centred on a matriarch arrived in France from Algeria and Mustang details young Turkish women in a small village in Turkey, while La Tête Haute was about child protection (it won two prizes – Rod Paradot for Best Young Actor and Benoît Magimel for Best Supporting Actor). Added to that tendency would be Irish fan Mélanie Laurent, who won the prize for Best Documentary for Demain (Tomorrow) – her globe-trotting film about climate change.
In fact, Fatima now holds the record for the film with the least impact at the box-office to ever win the César for Best Film.
The other notable trend about this year’s ceremony from the Théâtre du Châtelet is that of over-indulgence on the part of the comedy-presenter. What many commentators in the French press and punters on Twitter have described as a bit of an Americanisation, a generous amount of time seemed to be devoted to allowing funny-girl presenter Florence Foresti go through increasingly elaborate comedy routines between awards, while very little time was afforded to those who were recompensed for their efforts in the proud French cinematic industry. Many recipients were limited to pure “thank you” lists in a format that cut down on the risk of people saying anything interesting so as not to expose the television public to the risk of getting bored or switching channels.