Cesar Awards: Sean Penn Calls French Film a "Refuge" From Hollywood

Sean Penn AFI Fest Arrivals - H 2014

Sean Penn AFI Fest Arrivals - H 2014

The actor said French cinema is a "breath of fresh air" in a commercial world when receiving an honorary Cesar Award Friday night.

At first either reticent or reveling in a minute-long standing ovation, a visibly moved Sean Penn called out Hollywood and praised the French film industry when he received an honorary Cesar Award Friday night.

After an emotional introduction from a crying Marion Cotillard, who called him an "idealist" and a "rebel [who] questions the world and society" in his work and life, Penn said that growing up as a teen in the 1960s, he was inspired by French film and continues to be encouraged by the strength and independence of cinema here.

"It's been kind of a refuge when things get too cynical in what we do," he said, calling out a Hollywood that follows the ad dollars. "Artists are encouraging to each other to sustain a vivid industry, which we saw so briefly in American cinema."

"French cinema is unique for sustaining those emotions," he said, deeming it "a kind of refuge when things get too cynical."

"It's been a breath of fresh air, and that's the reason this means quite a lot to me," he continued.

"It has been a very sustaining inspiration, so when I came with my first film as a director, which was in Cannes, there was a sense of film and a discussion about film that was so refreshing and compared to that which I think is 'follow the advertising.' instead of 'let the advertising follow,' which I think is too much in American film. So to be honored by those who honor me with inspiration and encouragement is notable," he said.

Penn, who arrived with fiancee Charlize Theron on a rainy Friday night, met with French president Francois Hollande Thursday to discuss his humanitarian charity the J/P Haitian Relief Organization.