Cesar Award Nominees Celebrated at Luncheon

3:02 PM PST 02/04/2012 by Rebecca Leffler
Cannes Film Festival
"Poliss"

Stars from nominated films "Poliss," "Untouchable" and "House of Tolerance" were among the attendees at the Saturday event in France.

The French film biz served up a hearty portion of Cesar salad when this year’s nominees for France’s most prestigious film awards met for a swank lunch on Saturday at Fouquet’s restaurant.

Stars from this year’s crop of nominated titles including Poliss, Untouchable, House of Tolerance and The Minister braved the frigid Parisian temperatures to warm up with their fellow nominees.

A crowd gathered outside of the famed restaurant on the Champs-Elysées to catch a glimpse of their favorite French film stars at the increasingly media-heavy red carpet event.

The ambiance was festive as everyone celebrated the eclectic mix of titles that share the nominations in what was a stellar year for French cinema both at the box office and among critics across the globe.

Maiwenn’s Poliss earned 13 nominations, more than even Oscar favorite The Artist. “It’s normal. It’s a better film,” Poliss producer Alain Attal joked with a laugh. After winning the jury prize at last May’s Festival de Cannes, Poliss will head first to LA for the COL-COA festival in April before IFC releases the film in the US under their Sundance Selects banner.

“This was a year in France where we weren’t afraid to make movies with daring subjects and we weren’t afraid of not having enough money to make them either,” Attal said of films like Poliss, Untouchable or War is Declared that deal with issues like child molestation, handicap and infant illness.

“The nominations are proof that ‘popular auteur films’ can exist,” Attal said, adding: “There are a lot of big ideas coming out of France.”

“Popular auteur films” were the theme of the luncheon as film biz professionals discussed the rare, yet exciting, crossover between auteur film and box office success stories in the territory.

“I’m in heaven,” Untouchable co-director Olivier Nakache said of the film’s nine nominations. He added: “It’s a ‘popular auteur film.’ It’s such a great feeling to have such a positive response from both the public and people in the profession.”

Untouchable was the most popular film at the Gallic box office in 2011 and is the third-most-popular film in French history since 1945.

The Weinstein Co. will release the film stateside and also has the remake rights. If the critical and audience response in the US is anything like it has been for The Artist, Untouchable may in fact live up to its name across the Atlantic.

Notably absent were the director Michel Hazanivicius and the stars of the Weinstein Co.’s Oscar-nominated silent hit The Artist. The film’s leading actor Jean Dujardin was busy in LA on Friday night with an appearance on The Tonight Show. Producer Thomas Langmann did attend the lunch to show support for the film that may make history if it wins big at the Oscars.

War is Declared’s director, writer and lead actress Valerie Donzelli joined her co-star Jeremie Elkaim, best actor nominee Michel Blanc from Pierre Schoeller’s The Minister, best actress nominee Marie Gillain and best actor nominee Denis Podalydes, nominated for his role as President Nicolas Sarkozy in The Conquest.

First-time directors, brothers Stephane and David Foenkinos celebrated their nomination in the best first film category for their adaptation of David’s best-selling novel La Delicatesse. The film stars Audrey Tautou and French comedian Francois Damiens in a love story set in Paris that the Cohen Media Group will release in the US.

Guests dined on lobster salad, filet mignon and a chocolate dessert after a long champagne-filled cocktail.
This year’s Cesar Awards will be broadcast live and unencrypted on French pay TV channel Canal Plus on Feb. 24.

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