'Rose' biggest hit at home

But 'Grain' is best French pic

"La Vie en Rose" starlet Marion Cotillard continued to happily sing her way through the international awards season, nabbing the best actress prize in her home country at the 33rd Cesar Awards ceremony.

Director Olivier Dahan's Edith Piaf biopic was the big winner Friday night with five prizes, also reeling in trophies for best sound, cinematography, art direction and costume design.

A teary-eyed Cotillard thanked Dahan as she accepted her award. "You have changed my career as an actress, you have simply changed my life," she said. "You have written the most beautiful role in the world."

France's Academy of Film Arts and Sciences gave its top prize for best French film of the year to Abdellatif Kechiche's "The Secret of the Grain," which continued its romp through the Gallic awards season. It all started with the Louis Delluc Prize in December and followed with the Lumiere Awards, the Globes du Cristal, the Jacques Prevert awards, the Daniel Toscan du Plantier producer's prize and the Golden Star Awards.

Kechiche was awarded the Cesar for best director and best original screenplay and saw his leading lady Hafsia Herzi go home with the prize for best female newcomer. Kechiche is no stranger to the stage at Paris' Chatelet theater, where the awards were held: He was following his 2005 Cesar winning streak for "L'Esquive," which won four Cesars that year.

The academy honored Mathieu Amalric with best actor for his role as paralyzed Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby in Julian Schnabel's "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly." The absent Amalric, off shooting the next Bond film in Panama, sent a speech for master of ceremonies Antoine de Caunes to read to the audience. "Diving Bell" also won for best editing.

The famous Depardieu name was given a new face as the ubiquitous Julie Depardieu from "A Secret" took home the best supporting actress award, but not before shoving her co-star and co-nominee Ludivine Sagnier onstage to share her prize.

"Days of Glory" actor Sami Bouajila won the best supporting actor prize for his more recent role in Andre Techine's "The Witnesses." Laurent Stocker was named best male newcomer for his role in Claude Berri's "Hunting and Gathering."

Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud took the Cesar stage twice, nabbing awards for best first film and best adapted screenplay for "Persepolis," their black-and-white animated tale based on the Iranian-born Satrapi's best-selling book.

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others" won the Cesar for foreign film, following the picture's foreign-language Oscar victory last year. The second annual best documentary prize went to Barbet Schroeder for his Jacques Verges portrait "Terror's Advocate."

Actors Jean-Paul Rouve and Gilles Lellouche provided a humorous interlude, donning guitars and singing one of Carla Bruni's hit songs to present the award for musical score to Alex Beaupain for Christophe Honore's musical "Love Songs."

The ceremony, hosted by actor/TV personality Antoine de Caunes, proved a dull follow-up to last year's wild performance by host Valerie Lemercier, but the creme de la creme of the Gallic film industry came out for the occasion.

Fanny Ardant presented Roberto Benigni with his honorary foreign Cesar award. The Italian filmmaker gave a prolific, emotionally charged speech, thanking France for the honor, complete with many a "merci beaucoup" in his thick Italian accent.

The academy also paid homage to Jeanne Moreau with a special tribute spanning the French actress' 60-year movie career. Actor Melvil Poupaud, who shared screen time with Moreau in Francois Ozon's "Time to Leave," said a few kind words about the actress before Moreau invited writer Celine Sciamma and the cast of "Water Lilies" on stage to share in her honor. Veteran thespian Alain Delon also paid tribute to the late Romy Schneider.

The Cesar ceremony was followed by a swanky gourmet dinner at Fouquet's restaurant for the nominees and select VIPs. Cotillard joined hundreds of partygoers for the apres-Cesar to sip champagne and dance late into the night at a party at Mimi Pinson.

"It's the big celebration of the excellence of French cinema," academy president Alain Terzian said.

A complete list of winners can be found at THR.com.
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