Editor's Note: You may have figured out over the years that The Film Experience is more than a little fond of France and French cinema. Sadly I've never been to France. This year I've asked my friend in Paris, Julien to keep us up to date so he sent in the following article about this year's nominations. You should follow Julien Kojfer on Twitter because he's great. Just pretend you understand French whenever he goes there! - Nathaniel R
Julien takes it from here.
Here’s one for all you francophiles out there. France’s very own AMPAS, the César Academy, revealed its own set of nominees this morning. Since I’m guessing a lot of you won’t be familiar with most of the anointed films and performers, I’ll guide you through the major categories - a usual mixed bag of auteurist fare, populist hits, and biopic dreck.
- Rust and Bone
- Holy Motors
- Farewell, My Queen
- In the House
- Camille Rewinds
- Le Prénom (What’s in a name)
- Michael Haneke for Amour
- Jacques Audiard for Rust and Bone
- Leos Carax for Holy Motors
- Benoît Jacquot for Farewell, My Queen
- François Ozon for In the House
- Noémie Lvovsky for Camille Rewinds
- Stéphane Brizé for Quelques heures de printemps
The major categories were bumped up from 5 to 7 nominees since the last couple of years, which makes no sense to me whatsoever, but who cares. The über-frontrunner is obviously Amour, which will be difficult to deny considering that Palme d’or and those 5 Oscar nominations.
Rust and Bone seems to be the main challenger, but since Jacques Audiard has already triumphed twice at the César for his two most recent efforts, voters will presumably see no objection in handing the César-less Haneke his due. Also keep in mind that César voters are notoriously generous to foreign auteurs: Roman Polanski has won the Best Director prize thrice (and for English-speaking films to boot: Tess, The Pianist and The Ghost Writer) and past best director winners also include Joseph Losey (American) for Monsieur Klein, Andrzej Wajda (Polish) for Danton, Ettore Scola (Italian) for Le Bal and Denys Arcand (Canadian) for The Barbarian Invasions.
The other nominees make for a surprisingly strong lineup: Farewell, My Queen (on Nathaniel’s own Top Ten list) is superior costume fare from respected veteran Benoît Jacquot; the deliciously sly In the House is François Ozon’s best film since 8 Women; Noémie Lvovsky’s Camille Rewinds is so charming and heartfelt that it manages to make you forget how blatantly it rips-off 80s classic Peggy Sue Got Married; and of course Leos Carax’s astonishing Holy Motors is everyone’s favorite comeback story of 2012 (I’m sorry, Ben who?)
MORE AFTER THE JUMP including Cotillard vs. Riva
But of course, since we can’t have everything nice, there has to be a bad apple to spoil the bunch: this year it came in the form of Le Prénom, the adaptation of a recent hit play in which cardboard characters bicker endlessly during a family dinner about the shocking first name chosen by two prospective parents for their future child. One of the biggest box-office stories of the year, it was widely derided by critics as hopelessly hollow and out-of-date, and that Best Picture nomination is already making eyes roll. But since voters couldn’t fail to notice that there was no direction to speak of in that dreadful piece of filmed theater, the corresponding best director nomination went to Stéphane Brizé for Quelque heures de printemps, another “old lady dies” bummer whose complacency and lack of thematic focus puts Haneke heart-stopping mastery into even sharper relief.
- Jean-Pierre Bacri for Cherchez Hortense
- Patrick Bruel for Le Prénom
- Denis Lavant for Holy Motors
- Vincent Lindon for Quelques heures de printemps
- Fabrice Luchini for Dans La Maison
- Jérémie Renier for Cloclo
- Jean-Louis Trintignant for Amour
This is set to be a battle of titans between Trintignant and Lavant. I’d say Trintignant has the edge, being one of the absolute greats of French cinema and still César-less despite 4 previous nominations. And I have to admit that I’m very much mystified that until now the praise has been lavished exclusively on Riva, despite Trintignant being at least as impressive in his devastating doggedness (and much more “due” in terms of career honors). The only other deserving nominee besides those two -in my not so humble opinion- is Fabrice Luchini, one of our great theatrical hams (who some of you might remember as Catherine Deneuve’s husband in Ozon’s Potiche), who does some of his very best work here as an embittered teacher whose fascination with an over-zealous student might lead to his downfall.
The rest ranks from uninspired to awful: the usually great Jérémie Rénier (seen in Potiche, In Bruges and most of the Dardenne Brothers’ films) sweating profusely in the requisite bewigged biopic turn (as Claude François, a huge musical star who penned and sang “Comme d’habitude”, a song later popularized by Frank Sinatra under the name… "My Way"); big names Jean-Pierre Bacri and Vincent Lindon doing their best impressions of themselves; and singer-actor Patrick Bruel reprising his stage role seemingly without any knowledge that a few adjustments were necessary. The biggest surprise here is the absence of Rust and Bone’s Matthias Schoenaerts, who was unceremoniously relegated to the “Best Young Actor” category (despite being 35 and having acted for 20 years).
- Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone
- Catherine Frot for Les Saveurs du Palais
- Noémie Lvovsky for Camille Rewinds
- Corinne Masiero for Louise Wimmer
- Emmanuelle Riva for Amour
- Léa Seydoux for Les Adieux à la Reine
- Hélène Vincent for Quelque Heures de Printemps
Except for box-office mainstay Catherine Frot rehashing her same old populist shtick as the President’s cook in Les Saveurs du Palais, this is one hell of a lineup, and the fact that Riva towers over such competition is a testament to her indelible, Oscar-nominated performance. I’d say the only one who stands a chance against her is not Marion Cotillard -whose international success will work against her in the same way that it did for Jean Dujardin last year- but the ever great Noémie Lvovsky (a six-time losing nominee, also seen this year in Farewell, my queen), who resurrected her own youth both hilariously and heartbreakingly in her sleeper hit Camille Rewinds, and managed to direct herself without a trace of vanity.
Just here for the ride: Léa Seydoux, cementing her status as the hottest property in town; powerhouse character actress Corinne Masiero finally breaking through as a homeless woman in Louise Wimmer (she also played Matthias Schoenaerts’ sister in Rust and Bone) and stage veteran Hélène Vincent, heroically anchoring a dispiritingly schematic film.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
- Guillaume de Tonquedec for Le Prénom
- Samir Guesmi for Camille Rewinds
- Benoît Magimel for Cloclo
- Claude Rich for Cherchez Hortense
- Michel Vuillermoz for Camille Rewinds
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Valérie Benguigui for Le Prénom
- Judith Chemla for Camille Rewinds
- Isabelle Huppert for Amour
- Yolande Moreau for Camille Rewinds
- Edith Scob in Holy Motors
As often, not the most inspired categories. Most of the names here are unknown to international audiences, except of course Huppert, whose nomination strikes me as a tad obligator, Amour being a two-hander if there ever was one.
The good news: the legendary Edith Scob is a striking presence as Denis Lavant’s chauffeur in Holy Motors; and Yolande Moreau is miraculously in synch with Camille Rewinds’ beautifully modulated tonal shifts (Remember her? She won Best Actress from the Los Angeles Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics three years ago for Séraphine). The bad news: de Tonquedec and Benguigui are subpar theater actors whose mugging is a poor excuse for acting, and Benoît Magimel is nothing short of atrocious as famous French impresario Paul Lederman. Who cares that he went for Sean Penn in Carlito’s Way and ended up looking like a parody of Weird Al Yankovic: he’s playing a famous guy in a biopic with an accent and a wig and a fake belly, so that must mean he’s great!
I’d be hard-pressed to choose a winner from those five supporting actors. As for the ladies, my biggest disappointment is the absence of Kristin Scott-Thomas, whose deft work in In The House might be my favorite of her french-language performances yet. And God knows I’d love to see that woman with something golden in her hands.
I’ll be back in a month to report on the winners. Cheers !
P.S. The Nominees for BEST FOREIGN FILM
- "Argo," Ben Affleck
- "Bullhead," Michael R. Roskam
- "Laurence Anyways," Xavier Dolan
- "Oslo, August 31st, " Joachim Trier
- "The Angels Share," Ken Loach
- "A Royal Affair," Nikolaj Arcel
- "Our Children," Joachim Lafosse