• Sean Penn speaks on stage after his received a Cesar award of honor from French actress Marion Cotillard. (Photo: AP, Jacques Brinon)
Marion Cotillard tearfully presented Sean Penn with a lifetime achievement award, while Oscar nominee Timbuktu took out Best Film honours.
23 Feb 2015 - 10:31 AM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2015 - 5:09 PM

If you think sitting at home in your lounge room watching the Oscars is a gruel, think again. The ceremony of the French equivalent, the Cesars, lasted just under four and a half hours last Friday—and they give out far fewer prizes. My heart went out to Sean Penn and Charlize Theron, who sat in the front row so the cameras could constantly capture their famous faces, eclipsing even the coupling of French darlings, Guillaume Canet and Marion Cotillard, who both were nominated for acting awards, in separate films (see list below).

Cotillard nevertheless stole the show in one incredible billowing frock as she tearfully presented Penn with his lifetime achievement award. One imagines the best actress Oscar winner for 2007’s La Vie en Rose has packed another fabulous French frock and is currently readying herself for the Oscars where she is also unlikely to win against Julianne Moore after missing out in the Cesars to youngster Adele Haenel for Love at First Fight.

In Los Angeles too and almost definitely feeling buoyant, is Mauritania-born director Abderrahmane Sissako, whose French-financed film, Timbuktu, scooped the pool winning seven Cesar awards, including for best picture. The fact that the Oscar-nominated film (in the foreign film category) focuses on the excesses of Islamic fundamentalism in Mali, clearly helped propel its big win. In his acceptance speech Sissako recalled the recent Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks, saying proudly that “France has shown it was capable of standing up against horror and obscurantism”.

One of the night’s best moments that brought the crowd to its feet came when Timbuktu’s Cesar-winning composer, Amine Bouhafa, jammed with his trumpet. A popular figure and multi-talented musician, Bouhafa had been outspoken at the time of the Charlie Hebdo attack as well.

Largely the American film trade papers have focused on Kristen Stewart, as she became the first American actress to win a Cesar for Olivier Assayas’ otherwise disappointing Clouds of Sils Maria. Looking totally uncomfortable in a bare frock that didn't suit her and which she had to keep pulling up, the former Twilight star, who can’t speak French, nevertheless added a natural breath of fresh air to the proceedings. She stayed close to her film’s star, Juliette Binoche, who like Cotillard and Catherine Deneuve, missed out Haenel in the acting stakes.

Before the ceremony, Love at First Fight had seemed the frontrunner for best picture. The film, a youth-oriented romantic comedy that takes place in an Army boot camp, nonetheless took out three awards. Both the winners of best actor newcomer, Kevin Azais and first-time director Thomas Cailley, should enjoy long careers, like Haenel.

In the French press the emphasis had been on the rivalry between the two movies focusing on YSL. For the record, the official sanctioned version, Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent, stars Pierre Niney, boasts the original dresses, and had been a French box office success after releasing first. Yet many preferred Gaspard Ulliel’s portrayal in the second film, Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent, even if the dresses were remakes. Ultimately, Niney won, as did Anais Romand, the designer of the fake dresses in the opposing film, which had initially been the overall favourite with 10 nominations, though scored only one prize. Go figure. After the ceremony, Penn, clearly needing to get on his feet, walked over to congratulate Niney, who is from the prestigious Comédie Française.

Making the strongest impression in the fashion stakes was the cinema-loving and ever-flamboyant Jean Paul Gaultier, who came on stage wearing no trousers, as did his co-presenter, Marilou Berry. This came after the designer appeared in an earlier comedy skit about auditions for a biopic about him where they made fun of how there would now be an industry for making films about French fashion designers with three-part names. President of the Cesars, Danny Boon had a stint at the piano, while the master of ceremonies, Edouard Baer, even staged the making of a short film, starring the ever youthful and garrulous Jean Rochefort, now 84, and Romain Duris, who gamely leaped over the other people in his row, several times.     

A hush came over the audience when actress Julie Gayet, the girlfriend of President Francoise Hollande, presented a prize, especially after Baer made a joke about their coupledom. On Thursday, Penn, in his role as the Founder and President of the J/P Haitian Relief Organisation, visited the celebrity-loving President at the Élysée Palace to discuss the current situation in Haiti. The Oscar-winning actor was also in town to promote his starring role in Pierre Morel’s The Gunman, which he produced.
The 2015 César Award Winners

Best Film
Timbuktu (WINNER)
Love at First Fight
Eastern Boys
The Belier Family
Saint Laurent
Sils Maria

Best Director
Abderrahmane Sissako for Timbuktu (WINNER)
Celine Sciamma for Girlhood
Thomas Cailley for Love at First Fight
Robin Campillo for Eastern Boys
Thomas Lilti for Hippocrates
Bertrand Bonello for Saint Laurent
Olivier Assays for Sils Maria

Best Actress
Adele Haenel for Love at First Fight (WINNER)
Juliette Binoche for Sils Maria
Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night
Catherine Deneuve for Dans la Cour
Emilie Dequenne for Not My Type
Sandrine Kiberlain for Elle l’Adore
Karin Viard for The Belier Family

Best Supporting Actress
Kristen Stewart for Sils Maria (WINNER)
Marianne Denicourt for Hippocrates
Claude Gensac for Lulu in the Nude
Izia Higelin for Samba
Charlotte Le Bon for Yves Saint Laurent

Best Actor
Pierre Niney for Yves Saint Laurent (WINNER)
Niels Arestrup for Diplomatie
Guillaume Canet for Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart
Francois Damines for The Belier Family
Romain Duris for The New Girlfriend
Vincent Lacoste for Hippocrates
Gaspard Ulliel for Saint Laurent

Best Supporting Actor
Reda Kateb for Hippocrates (WINNER)
Eric Elmosnino for The Belier Family
Guillaume Gallienne for Yves Saint Laurent
Louis Garrel for Saint Laurent
Jeremie Renier for Saint Laurent

Best Original Screenplay
Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall for Timbuktu (WINNER)
Thomas Cailley, Claude le Pape for Love at First Fight
Victoria Bedos, Stanislas Carre de Malberg, Eric Lartigau and Thomas Bidegain for The Belier Family
Thomas Lilti, Baya Kasmi, Julien Lilti and Pierre Chosson for Hippocrates
Oliver Assayas for Sils Maria

Best Adapted Screenplay
Cyril Gely, Volker Schlondorff for Diplomatie (WINNER)
Mathieu Almaric, Stephanie Cleau for The Blue Room
Solveig Anspach, Jean-Luc Gaget for Lulu in the Nude
Lucas Belvaux for Not My Type
Cederic Anger for Next Time I’ll Aim for the Heart

Best First Film
Love at First Fight by Thomas Cailley (WINNER)
Elle l’Adore by Jeanne Herry
Fidelio by Lucie Borleteau
Party Girl by Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis
May Allah Bless France by Abd al Malik

Best New Actress
Louane Emera for The Belier Family (WINNER)
Lou de Laage for Breathe
Josephine Japy for Breathe
Ariane Labed for Fidelio
Karidja Toure for Girlhood

Best New Actor
Kevin Azais for Love at First Fight (WINNER)
Ahmed Drame for Les Heritiers
Kirill Emelyanov for Eastern Boys
Pierre Rochefort for Going Away
Marc Zinga for May Allah Bless France

Best Costume
Anais Romand for Saint Laurent (WINNER)
Pierre-Yves Gayraud for The Beauty and the Beast
Carine Sarfati for The Connection
Pascaline Chavanne for The New Girlfriend
Madeline Fontaine for Yves Saint Laurent

Best Set Decoration
Thierry Flamand for The Beauty and the Beast (WINNER)
Jean-Philippe Moreau for The Connection
Katia Wyszkop for Saint Laurent
Sebastian Birchler for Timbuktu
Aline Bonetto for Yves Saint Laurent

Best Cinematography
Sofian el Fani for Timbuktu (WINNER)
Christophe Beaucarne for The Beauty and the Beast
Josee Deshaies for Saint Laurent
Yorick le Saux for Sils Maria
Thomas Hardmeier for Yves Saint Laurent

Best Editing
Lilian Corbielle for Love at First Fight
Christel Dewynter for Hippocrates
Frederic Baillehaiche for Party Girl
Fabrice Rouad for Saint Laurent
Nadia Ben Rachid for Timbuktu

Best Sound
Philippe Welsh, Roman Dymn, Thierry Delor for Timbuktu (WINNER)
Pierre Andre and Daniel Sobrino for Girlhood
Jean-Jacques Ferran, Nicolas Moreau, Jean-Pierre Laforce for Bird People
Jean-Luc Audy, Guillaume Bouchateau, Niels Barletta for Love at First Fight
Nicolas Cantin, Nicolas Moreau, Jean-Pierre Laforce for Saint Laurent

Best Animated Film
Minuscule (WINNER)
Le Chant de la Mer
Jack and the Cuckooclock Heart

Best Original Music
Amine Bouhafa for Timbuktu (WINNER)
Jean-Baptiste de Laubier for Girlhood
Beatrice Thiriet for Bird People
Lionel Flairs, Benoit Rault, Philippe Deshaies for Love at First Fight
Ibrahim Maalouf for Yves Saint Laurent

Best Documentary
The Salt of the Earth by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado (WINNER)
Cartoonists: Footsoldiers of Democracy by Stephanie Valloatto
Les Chevres de Ma Mere by Sophie Audier
La Cour de Babel by Julie Bertuccelli
National Gallery by Frederick Wiseman

Best Short Film
Le Femme de Rio by Emma Luchini, Nicolas Rey (WINNER)
Aissa by Clement Trehin-Lalanne
Inupiluk by Sebastien Betbeder
Les Jours d’Avant by Karim Moussaoui
Ou Je Mets Ma Pudeur by Sebastien Bailly
La Viree a Paname by Carine May and Hakim Zouhani

Best Animated Short Film
Les Petits Caillous by Chloe Mazlo (WINNER)
Bang Bang by Julien Bisaro
La Buche de Noel by Vincent Patar and Stephane Aubier
La Petite Casserole d’Anatole by Eric Montchaud


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