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Monks and motorcycles: France’s César awards

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-02-25

A varied roster of films and performances will compete on Friday night at the annual César awards, presided over by US actress and fluent French speaker Jodie Foster. Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men” is the frontrunner for Best Film.

They may not be as festive as Britain’s BAFTAS, or as glamorous as the Oscars, but France’s yearly César awards have become a cultural institution in their own right. Since 1975, the event has been a prestigious and eagerly anticipated annual rendezvous for the French film industry and a few select guests from abroad.

This year, the most visible of those guests will be American actress – and fluent Francophone – Jodie Foster, who will preside over the ceremony on Friday night in Paris. The films and performances vying for the coveted statuette in the main categories are a particularly diverse bunch, mixing various genres, subjects and acting styles, as well as industry mainstays and relative newcomers.

A somber frontrunner in a diverse field

The frontrunner in the Best Film category is undeniably “Of Gods and Men” (“Des hommes et des dieux”), Xavier Beauvois’ hushed, haunting drama based on a true story about French monks in Algeria. The film received glowing reviews from French critics and took  second-place in the Jury Prize ( Prix du Jury) award at Cannes in May.

The film is by far the most somber work up for the big award. Others are “L’Arnacoeur” (Heartbreaker), a glittery romantic comedy set in Monaco and starring scruffy French heartthrob Romain Duris and singer-actress (and Johnny Depp's partner) Vanessa Paradis; “Gainsbourg (Vie Heroique)”, an unconventional biopic on French musical legend Serge Gainsbourg; “Mammuth”, a quirky road movie set in rural France; “Le Nom des gens”, a tart satire about sex and politics; “The Ghost Writer”, an English-language political thriller from Roman Polanski; and “Tournée”, an offbeat, melancholy comedy about American burlesque dancers touring France.

The acting categories this year are a notable mix of French cinema veterans and striking young performers who have just started to make their mark. The Best Actor race pits the world's best-known French actor Gérard Depardieu (the motorcycle-riding lead in “Mammuth”), against the lesser-known Eric Elmosnino, who plays Gainsbourg in the biopic.

Similarly, French cinema icon Catherine Deneuve (nominated for a comic turn in “Potiche”) is pitted against 24-year-old Sara Forestier, whose bawdy heroine in “Le Nom des gens” was one of the most acclaimed performances of the year.

Foster will be joined at the awards by another American featuring prominently in the proceedings: US director – and avowed Francophile – Quentin Tarantino is set to accept an honorary César.

Date created : 2011-02-24


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