Roman Polanski's 'An Officer and a Spy' Leads France's Cesar Awards Nominations

1:22 AM 1/29/2020

by Georg Szalai

The biggest French film honors will take place in Paris on Feb. 28.

An Officer And A Spy - J Accuse - Venice Film Festival - Competition - H 2019
Venice Film Festival

France’s Academy of Cinema Arts and Sciences on Wednesday morning unveiled the nominations for this year’s Cesar Awards — the country’s equivalent to the Oscars — during a breakfast press conference, with Roman Polanski's An Officer and a Spy leading the nominations with 12, including for best director and best film.

Other nominees include Ladj Ly's Les Misérables, which will compete for 11 honors, including the director and best film awards, Nicolas Bedos' La Belle Époque, which also got 11 nominations, Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which got 10 noms, and Atlantics by Mati Diop, which got three.

The members of the French Academy voted to determine the nominees from a list of eligible films. 

Polanski, a French and Polish citizen who has lived in Paris since he fled the U.S. in 1978, was last year again accused of rape, this time by French actress Valentine Monnier. The accusation joins a handful of others made in recent years, as well as the case of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey that sent Polanski on the run over four decades ago. 

What was different this time around was that the accusation, published a few days before the release of An Officer and a Spy, sparked several public denunciations and a widespread debate as to whether the movie should be seen at all or boycotted. The historical drama is about the Alfred Dreyfus affair of 1894, in which a Jewish officer was falsely accused of treason by the French army for anti-Semitic reasons.

Les Misérables on Monday won three honors at Lumiere Awards, often called the Golden Globes of France, including the best film award. But Ladj Ly, the director of the Oscar shortlisted hit, lost out to Polanski for the best director prize.

Ly late last year also came under fire after two French publications falsely reported that he was convicted of complicity in an attempted murder, while daily Libération reported that he was, in fact, convicted in 2009 of complicity in a kidnapping and sequestration case, for which he received a three-year sentence. Ly unsuccessfully appealed the ruling in 2012 and served a reduced two-year prison sentence.

Once Upon a Hollywood from Quentin Tarantino, Todd Phillips' Joker and Bong Joon Ho's Parasite are among the best foreign-language films.

Robert Redford last year received a special honor from the French Academy at the Cesar Awards, following George Clooney and Michael Douglas, though Kristen Stewart and Adrien Brody remain the only Americans to have won an acting prize.

Custody, a divorce drama from director Xavier Legrand, was crowned the best film of the year at last year's Cesars, and Hirokazu Kore-eda's Palme d'Or winner Shoplifters won in the best foreign-language category, while Diane Kruger at the ceremony led a tribute to late Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld. 

The 45th edition of the Cesar Awards will take place in Paris on Feb. 28.

See the full nominations below: