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'The Artist,' 'Poliss,' 'House of Tolerance,' 'Untouchable' and 'The Minister' Lead France's Cesar Nominations

The Artist Chair Film Still - H 2012
Courtesy of The Weinstein Company

While the French Academy typically sees one film dominate, the noms this year are spread around "Poliss" with 13, "The Minister" with 11, "The Artist" with 10, "Untouchable" with nine and "House of Tolerance" with eight.

PARIS -- France's Academy of Technical Arts and Sciences added Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist to a colorful palette of nominees including Maiwenn’s Poliss, Pierre Schoeller’s The Minister, Valerie Donzelli’s War is Declared, Bertrand Bonello’s The House of Tolerance and Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s Untouchable when the 37th annual Cesar awards were announced Friday.

France’s Academy painted The Artist with 10 nominations including best film, best actor and actress for the stars Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo and best director for Michel Hazanavicius.

The Artist was rereleased in its native France on Wednesday, one day after it collected 10 Oscar noms.

The film joined fellow Festival de Cannes titles Poliss, The Minister, War is DeclaredThe House of Tolerance, box-office hit Untouchable, Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre and Alain Cavalier’s Pater  in the best film category.

Actress-writer-director Maiwenn's Poliss snagged 13 noms for her ensemble drama that won this year’s Cannes jury prize. Sundance Selects will release the film about the minor’s brigade of the Paris police force stateside.

While the French Academy typically sees one film dominate, this year many movies were lauded. In addition to Poliss, The Minister nabbed 11 noms, The Artist 10, Untouchable nine and House of Tolerance with eight. The winners will be announced in Paris Feb. 24, two days before the Academy Awards.

For the first time, one of the Cesar favorites — The Artist — is a best film Oscar front-runner as well. That doesn't surprise French Film Academy president Alain Terzian.

“Don’t forget that the Cesar Awards were created in homage to the Oscars," Terzian told THR. "The people who founded the Cesar Awards were all known in Hollywood – Claude Lelouch, Claude Berri, Costa-Gavras, Michel Legrand and Jean-Jacques Annaud for example. It’s symbolic that the Cesar and the Oscars are the same weekend. It’s an homage I want to permanently pay."

Terzian confirmed that The Artist talents will be in attendance for France’s big night before flying to Los Angeles the following day. 

After a record year at the box office with 215.6 million tickets sold, the French film biz honored its own with nominations in 21 categories. Terzian unveiled the nominees with TV personality Antoine de Caunes.

“Bravo to French cinema!” Terzian said. The Academy opened the race to seven nominees in the categories for best actor, actress and director to coincide with the seven-strong best film category. “Do you see why it was worth adding more? There’s so much talent here,” Terzian said after the envelopes were opened.

Kate Winslet will add some star power to the event when the actress receives the Academy’s Honorary Cesar award from her Carnage director, Roman Polanski.

While the Academy usually snubs box-office hits in favor or more art house fare, this year’s breakout hit Untouchable was honored in most categories.

Untouchable was tops of the Gallic box office in 2011 and is the third-most-popular film in French history since 1945, following only Titanic and Welcome to the Sticks. Untouchable, distributed by Gaumont in France, stars Francois Cluzet as a quadriplegic man whose life changes when a young man (Omar Sy) from the nearby suburbs comes to take care of him. The film has received rave reviews from critics in France and opened to the best performance in Paris for a French movie in 2011. The Weinstein Co., which has handled The Artist's U.S. release and Oscar campaign, will release Untouchable stateside and has bought an option for the remake rights for the film.

“I’d like to personally congratulate Harvey Weinstein, who did amazing work for French cinema this year with The Artist and also Untouchable,” Terzian said, noting TWC's successful U.S. release of both Gallic titles. “The man is a genius, and he shows his love for cinema wherever he is in the world. He touches the hearts of audiences everywhere with love, passion and enthusiasm.”  

The film’s stars Cluzet and Sy were nominated in the best actor category, joining Dujardin, Sami Bouajila in Omar Killed Me, Olivier Gourmet in The Minister, Denis Podalydes in The Conquest and Philippe Torreton in Presumed Guilty.

While it didn’t make it to Oscar's foreign-film shortlist, writer-director-star Valerie Donzelli's Declaration of War fought its way through with six noms, including best film, director and actress.

Donzelli will compete against Bejo, Poliss stars Karin Viard and Marina Fois, Leila Bekhti for Radu Mihaileanu’s The Source, Marie Gillain for Toutes nos envies and Ariane Ascaride for her role in Robert Guedigian’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

This year’s Louis Delluc prize winner Le Havre  also made it into the best dilm race despite being snubbed in most other categories.

The whimsical modern day fairy tale about a town coming together to reunite an immigrant child with his mother premiered at May’s Festival de Cannes in Competition. Kaurismaki joins Hazanavicius, Toledano and Nakache, Maiwenn, Schoeller, Donzelli, and Alain Cavalier for Paterin the Best Director category.

Brother directing duo David and Stephane Foenkinos earned a Best First film nomination for their adaptation of David’s best-selling novel la Delicatesse.

Vying for best foreign film will be Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, The Dardenne BrothersThe Kid on a Bike, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies and Golden Globe winner Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation.

France’s Academy boasts 4,199 members, of which 3,880 selected the nominees from a pool of 555 films and 3,309 talents.

The Academy also will pay homage to late actress Annie Girardot.

Cannes this year served as a sneak peek at some of this year’s best films out of France, with The Artist, Poliss, Declaration of War, House of Tolerance, Le Havre, Pater and The Minister all bowing on the Riviera.

As far as this year's Cesar gala goes, De Caunes said he would be working "up until the last minute" preparing the ceremony. "There will be a lot of surprises this year, I can promise you that,” he said. “It’s the first time in awhile we’ve seen such a crossover between the tastes of those making films and the audiences who go to see them. This generation of talents is much more relaxed and makes everything less institutional than before."

The 36th annual Cesar Awards ceremony will be held at the Chatelet Theater, hosted by de Caunes for the eighth time. French actor-director Guillaume Canet will preside over the ceremony that will be broadcast live and unencrypted on pay TV network Canal Plus.