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Robin Campillo's 120 BPM led the tally at France's Cesar Awards on Friday night, taking home the top prize for best film as well as best original screenplay honors for Campillo and the best new actor prize for star Nahuel Perez Biscayart for a total of six awards.
Biscayart was also the star of Albert Dupontel's See You Up There, which took home five prizes, including for best director.
The two pics had gone into the evening tied with 13 nominations each, though 120 BPM had a slight edge, having taken home the French Academy's producers prize on Monday night.
Biscayart said that the fact that he had been included among the nominees had demonstrated how the Argentinian actor has been "welcomed by the French cinema community in a very positive and enthusiastic way."
"I don't really think about awards. I see things in both films, and both are very special. I played in two films that I am really proud of — being able to explore different energies and different things. I love them both," he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Dupontel was not on hand for his win, as he has been absent from the awards season. The actor is said to dislike competition, and he refused to issue a screener or special theater tickets for voters. They still flocked to the screens — on their own dime, it seems — as See You Up There is still playing in Paris.
After skipping the red carpet, Marion Cotillard made a surprise appearance in a sparkling Halpern gown to present an honorary Cesar to Penelope Cruz. Cotillard called her fellow actress "an inspiration with a luminous presence," and she also was joined onstage by director Pedro Almodovar. The Oscar-winning filmmaker asked the audience for a standing ovation for Cruz, and said it has been "an enormous privilege" to work with her on many films over the years before he brought her to the stage.
With husband Javier Bardem looking on, a visibly moved Cruz nearly began sobbing. "What emotion. I never imagined such an honor from the French Academy. France has always been very generous to me," she said in French. The actress also praised the French film industry for protecting its film culture and for the way it portrays women characters. Cruz switched to Spanish to thank Almodovar, who she said "lit a flame" within her that led to her acting career, and Bardem, who she said has "a big heart." She later said it was seeing her mother in the audience that brought on the tears.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was the three awards for Bloody Milk, director Hubert Chaurel's first film. Chaurel won in the first-film category, and also garnered the best supporting actress prize for Sara Giraudeau and best actor honors for Swann Arlaud.
Another big surprise was in the documentary category, where Raoul Peck's I Am Not Your Negro took the Cesar over sentimental favorite Faces Places from legendary filmmaker Agnes Varda and artist JR. That film is also up for an Oscar in the documentary category.
Varda, who is already in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards ceremony, was represented here again by a cardboard cutout, which she made famous at the Oscars class photo earlier this year.
In the best foreign film category, Andrey Zvyagintsev's Cannes Jury Prize winner Loveless prevailed, beating out both Dunkirk, which was largely shot in France, and Palme d'Or winner The Square. Both Loveless and The Square are also in the running for the best foreign-language film Oscar.
Juliette Binoche, Isabelle Huppert, Olga Kurylenko, Noomi Rapace and Cannes Film Festival head Thierry Fremaux were among the French film luminaries that walked the red carpet before the Cesars ceremony, as well as designers Christian Louboutin and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Host Manu Payet opened the show just after 9 p.m. local time with a routine of singing and dancing trophies. He also joked about the acting categories, noting that the actress prize was just like the actor's, "except they make less." He also welcomed honoree Cruz in Spanish.
Avoiding last year's scandal, in which Roman Polanski was appointed as a ceremonial president and later withdrew among protests from feminist groups, the Academy didn't appoint one this year but instead had actress Vanessa Paradis open the ceremony with an emotional speech supporting the Academy's #NowWeAct white ribbon campaign to battle violence against women.
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