Huppert thriller 'Elle' a favourite at France's César awards
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Isabelle Huppert and her revenge thriller "Elle" are favourites at Friday night's César awards, known as the French Oscars. But they could see some stiff competition from François Ozon's romantic drama "Frantz".
Huppert, 63, received the Golden Globe for best actress last month for "Elle", the story of a middle-aged woman who turns the tables on her rapist. It also won the Golden Globe for best foreign film.
Huppert got some A-list backing from Nicole Kidman who called Huppert "a model for other actresses" earlier this month while on a visit to Paris to promote her own Oscar-nominated film, "Lion". She told French radio that Huppert's performance in "Elle" was "probably the most extraordinary role that I have seen played by any actress, other than Meryl Streep".
But Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who could not get the film made in Hollywood because of its controversial subject matter, was ultimately snubbed by the Oscars committee.
"Elle" nevertheless dominates the Césars with 11 nominations along with François Ozon's romantic drama "Frantz", set just after World War I when a young German woman meets a mysterious Frenchman while visiting her fiancé's grave.
But Huppert could face stiff competition in the best actress category from Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen for her role in "La Fille de Brest".
The film, which has been compared to "Erin Brockovich", tells the real-life story of a whistleblower who uncovered a French medical scandal in which hundreds of people died after being given a highly controversial medicine.
"My Life as a Zucchini" (Ma Vie de Courgette) beat out "The Red Turtle" to the award for best animated film and also took home the prize for best long-form animation.
"My Life as a Zucchini" has been boosted by the backing of Peter Lord, the British creator of "Wallace and Gromit", who called the story of an orphan boy in a children's home "very special".
He also confessed to shedding more than a few tears while watching it and praised its "great uplifting and optimistic end".
"Divines", a stirring story of the friendship between two young girls on one of France's troubled housing estates, took two honours early in the night: It won the award for best first film and star Oulaya Amamra took the prize for best newcomer.
Director Houda Benyamina also took the prize for best first film at the Cannes Film Festival.
With the country's restive suburbs again hit by protests over two cases of alleged police brutality, its victories are timely.
The Césars have, however, been overshadowed by a row over the organisers' decision to ask Roman Polanski to preside over the ceremony. The maker of "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" has been in exile from the United States for nearly four decades. He fled the country after serving 42 days in jail for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977.
Hollywood star George Clooney will also receive an honourary award at this year's Césars.