In France, the equivalent to the Oscars, the Cesars, usually take place in February, although not on the same weekend as the Oscars. This year, the Cesar awards were given out in Paris Friday night. And despite its ten Oscar and Cesar nominations plus three Golden Globe and seven BAFTA wins, “The Artist” did not win all the Cesars. Going in, the year’s top French box office hit “The Intouchables” was tagged the favorite. While “The Artist” won six including Best Picture and Actress, its popular star Jean Dujardin lost Best Actor to ‘Intouchables’ star Omar Sy.
Now Dujardin and “The Artist” winners Michel Hazanavicius (best picture and director), Berenice Bejo (best actress), Ludovic Bource (best score), Guilaume Schiffman (best cinematography) and Laurence Bennett (best art direction) will have to schlep back across the pond to be at the Oscars on Sunday, where “The Artist” is expected to win at least four awards including Best Picture.
If Dujardin does beat George Clooney in the highly competitive Best Actor Oscar race, he will be the first Frenchman to win that award (Maurice Chevalier, Charles Boyer and Gerard Depardieu were nominated). While Oscar-winner Claudette Colbert (“It Happened One Night”) was born in France and Simone Signoret won Best Actress for an English-speaking role in “Room at the Top,” Marion Cotillard is the only actress to win for a French-speaking role, for “La Vie en Rose.”
I was interviewed earleir this week by a French radiocaster who told me more about Dujardin. He is a huge star in France, where his movies have been unexpected hits. While he made his name in comedies such as Hazanavicius’ “OSS 117” spy parodies, he recently took a darker more dramatic turn in “Un balcon sur la mer,” shot just before “The Artist.” He is the son of working class parents who made him learn a trade as a locksmith before he turned to the arts. He is considered unpretentious, a man of the people. He left his first wife after he fell in love with his long-time co-star Alexandra Lamy on the comedy TV series “Un gars, une fille,” to whom he is still married.
Thanks to the soaring success of “The Artist,” Dujardin is providing us with the most contested race of the night. No one knows who will win.