WWI drama battles for glory in French Oscars

24th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 24 (AFP) - A World War One drama "A Very Long Engagement", which was the centre of a surreal court battle, is vying for glory in France's top movie awards on Saturday, just 24 hours before all eyes turn to Hollywood and the Oscars.

PARIS, Feb 24 (AFP) - A World War One drama "A Very Long Engagement", which was the centre of a surreal court battle, is vying for glory in France's top movie awards on Saturday, just 24 hours before all eyes turn to Hollywood and the Oscars.

The French-language film, in which actress Audrey Tautou teams up again with Jean-Pierre Jeunet, her director in the whimsical global hit "Amelie", was a huge box office success here.

But it hit the headlines when a court ruled in November it did not qualify as a French movie because it was produced by 2003 Productions which the judges said was essentially a front company for US studio Warner Brothers.

The ruling, which rocked the film industry here, threatened the film's place in France's Cesar awards as well as its access to lucrative French subsidies.

But despite the furore, "Engagement" is competing in 12 categories in Saturday's Cesar award ceremony, to be presided over by stunning French actress, Isabelle Adjani.

Based on a novel, the film tells the story of a young Frenchwoman, played by Tautou, nominated for best actress, who determinedly searches for her missing fiance, a soldier, amid the horrors of the trenches of World War One.

It will be competing notably against "Les Choristes" or "The Chorus" - the first full-length feature by Christophe Barratier, a classical guitarist turned film-maker - nominated in eight categories including for best French film and best director.

The film, which turned its star Gerard Jugnot into France's best-paid actor in 2004, knocking Gerard Depardieu off the top spot, tells of a choir-master who changes the lives of a group of reform schoolboys in post-war France.

The awards are being held on the eve of Sunday's ceremony in Los Angeles, and in the past have provided pointers to likely Oscar favourites.

But with the votes by the 5,808 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences already cast, the Cesars are unlikely to predict who could pick up coveted golden statuettes this year.

"Les Choiristes" will be competing as France's entry in the foreign language section, and has also picked up a gong in the category for best original song.

But whereas a bevy of biographical films such as "The Aviator, "Ray" and "Finding Neverland" are leading the charge in the Oscars, none of them qualified for Cesar nominations as they had been released here before the December 31 deadline.

Instead, heading up the race among the foreign movies are Mike Moore's polemical "Fahrenheit 9/11" - which won last year's Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival - and the gritty "21 Grammes" starring Sean Penn.

Neither of the two films are entered in this year's Oscars - Moore's hard-hitting documentary being snubbed when he opted not to enter it in the documentary section and it failed to make the grade in the film categories.

The wistful comedy "Lost in Translation", which last year won director Sofia Coppola an Oscar for best original screenplay, is also up for a Cesar in the foreign film section.

The final two entries for the category - won last year by Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" - are "The Motorcycle Diaries" about the young Che Guevara's voyage across Latin America, and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", which has also won two Oscar nominations for Kate Winslet as best actress and original screenplay.

US actor Will Smith is be awarded an honorary Cesar, along with a venerable French singer/actor, Jacques Dutronc.

Meanwhile, other nominations for best French film include "36 Quai des Orfevres", a gritty cop movie starring Depardieu and Daniel Auteuil, and "Rois et Reine", about two ex-lovers' relationships with their families.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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