César honours Les Misérables and Polanski

Controversial choices in French awards upset stormy ceremony

by Richard Mowe

Ladj Ly on stage at the Césars when Les Misérables took the best film honour
Ladj Ly on stage at the Césars when Les Misérables took the best film honour Photo: Academie des Césars
In one of the most tempestuous and divisive Césars (France’s answer to the Oscars) which saw resignations by board members, protests outside the ceremony in Paris’s Salle Pleyel and a plethora of online criticism, the controversy looks set to continue with award of the best director honour for Roman Polanski for An Officer and a Spy (J’accuse). The veteran director had decided earlier in the week to shun the occasion because of the protests.

Fanny Ardant - all smiles for her best supporting actress accolade for La Belle Epoque
Fanny Ardant - all smiles for her best supporting actress accolade for La Belle Epoque Photo: Academie des Césars
Best actress nominee Adèle Haenel stormed out - along with others - and muted boos could be heard as the award was announced before the president of the evening actress Sandrine Kiberlain revealed that Les Misérables had taken top honours as best film. Ladj Ly’s Oscar-nominated look at life in the Paris suburbs has been much acclaimed since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Earlier France’s culture minister said that to give Polanski a César would send the wrong signals. Producer Alain Goldman and star Jean Dujardin also announced they also wouldn't be attending the awards because of “an escalation of inappropriate and violent language and behaviour" towards Polanski.

In the fraught circumstances comedian and actress Florence Foresti was charged with holding the evening together at the 45th edition of the awards.

There were two surprise wins in the acting categories with the much favoured duo of Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel losing out to Anaïs Demoustier for her performance in Alice And The Mayor by Nicholas Pariser. Meanwhile unexpectedly Roschdy Zem took a best actor César for his performance as a police inspector in the crime drama Oh Mercy! by Arnaud Desplechin.

Les Misérables had a good night with Alexis Manenti named best male newcomer, for his role as the racist cop Chris. The film also picked up the public Cesar, voted on by cinema goers. Flora Volpelière picked up the best editing gong for her work on Les Misérables. The hotly tipped Portrait of a Lady on Fire was not much favoured by the 4000-odd voting members of the Academy.

A popular win was for Lyna Khoudri as best female newcomerfor Mounia Meddour's Papicha, which also took the best first film award for the director.

Surprise best actress choice: Anaïs Demoustier
Surprise best actress choice: Anaïs Demoustier Photo: Academie des Césars
Jérémy Clapin and Guillaume Laurant scored best adapted screenplay for their script to the Netflix animated feature I Lost My Body, which also took best original score for Dan Levy.

Fanny Ardant looked suitably radiant and delighted with her best supporting actress accolade for Nicolas Bedos’s romantic comedy La Belle Epoque - and not surprisingly it also won best production design for Stéphane Rosenbaum. Swann Arlaud proved a worthy winner for portraying a survivor of child sexual abuse in François Ozon’s By The Grace Of God. Sexual abuse in an ultra-orthodox community in Israel was the subject off the best documentary winner M by Yolande Moreau.

The César Academy had said it will hold a general assembly of its members after this year's Césars to elect a new board and navigate a way forward. There will be decidedly stormy times ahead after this year’s controversial choices.

The full list of winners and nominees is below:

Best Film

Best Director

Best Actor

Best Actress

Best Female Newcomer

  • Céleste Brunnquell,  Les Eblouis
  • WINNER: Lyna Khoudri,  Papicha
  • Luàna Bajrami, Portrait Of A Lady On Fire/Portrait De La Jeune Fille En Feu
  • Nina Meurisse,  Camille
  • Mama Sané,  Atlantics/Atlantique

Best Male Newcomer

  • Anthony Bajon,  Au Nom De La Terre
  • Benjamin Lesieur, The Specials/Hors Normes
  • WINNER: Alexis Manenti, Les Misérables
  • Liam Pierron, La Vie Scolaire
  • Djebril Zonga, Les Misérables

Best Supporting Actress

  • WINNER: Fanny Ardant, La Belle Époque
  • Josiane Balasko, By The Grace Of God/Grâce À Dieu
  • Laure Calamy, Seules Les Bêtes
  • Sara Forestier, Oh Mercy!/Roubaix, Une Lumière
  • Hélène Vincent, The Specials/Hors Normes

Best Supporting Actor

Best Animation

  • La Fameuse Invasion Des Ours En Sicile, Lorenzo Mattotti
  • The Swallows Of Kabul / Les Hirondelles De Kaboul,  Zabou Breitman and Eléa Gobbé-Mévellec
  • WINNER: I Lost My Body/J’ai Perdu Mon Corps, Jérémy Clapin

Best Original Screenplay

Best Adaptation

  • Costa Gavras, Adults In The Room
  • WINNER: Roman Polanski, Robert Harris,  An Officer and a Spy/J’accuse 
  • Jérémy Clapin, Guillaume Laurant, I Lost My Body/J’ai Perdu Mon Corps
  • Arnaud Desplechin, Léa Mysius, Oh Mercy!/Roubaix, Une Lumière
  • Dominik Moll, Gilles Marchand,  Seules Les Bêtes

Best original score

Best Documentary

  • 68, Mon Père Et Les Clous,  Samuel Biguiaoui
  • The Cordillera Of Dreams/La Cordillière Des Songes, Patricio Guzman
  • Lourdes,  Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai
  • WINNER: M, Yolande Zauberman
  • Wonder Boy, Olivier Rousteing, Anissa Bonnefont, produced by Anissa Bonnefont

Best First Film

  • Atlantics/Atlantique, Mati Diop
  • Au Nom De La Terre, Edouard Bergeon
  • Le Chant Du Loup, Antonin Baudry
  • Les Misérables,  Ladj Ly
  • WINNER: Papicha,  Mounia Meddour

Best Production Design

Best Costumes

 Best Editing 

  • Anny Danché, Florent Vassault – La Belle Époque
  • Laure Gardette – By The Grace Of God/Grâce à Dieu
  • Dorian Rigal-Ansous – The Specials/Hors normes
  • Hervé de Luze – An Officer And A Spy/J’accuse
  • WINNER:Flora Volpelière – Les Misérables

Audience Award

  • Au nom de la terre/In The Name Of The Land
  • The Specials / Hors normes
  • WINNER: Les Misérables
  • Nous finirons ensemble/Little White Lies 2
  • Qu'est-ce qu'on a encore fait au Bon Dieu/Serial (Bad) Weddings 2

Best Foreign Film

Best Short Film

  • Chien Bleu,  Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh
  • Beautiful Loser, Maxime Roy
  • Le Chant d'Ahmed, Foued Mansour
  • Netfa Football Club, Yves Piat
  • WINNER: Pile Poil, Lauriane Escaffre, Yvonnick Muller

Best Animated Short

  • Ce magnifique gâteau!/This Magnificent Cake!, Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels
  • Je sors acheter des cigarettes/I’m Running out of Cigarettes, Osman Cerfon
  • WINNER: La Nuit des sacs plastiques/The Night of the Plastic Bags, Gabriel Harel
  • Make It Soul, Jean-Charles Mbotti Malolo
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