Cesars hail 'Seraphine' best pic

Crime tale 'Mesrine' pays for Richet, Cassel

PARIS -- Martin Provost's "Seraphine" brushed through a very colorful 34th annual Cesar Awards, taking the prize for best film at the Friday night ceremony in Paris.

The film took home seven awards, including a best actress statue for star Yolande Moreau and wins for original screenplay, costumes, sound, photography and decor.

"Milk" Oscar winner Sean Penn and Dustin Hoffman added Hollywood star power to the 34th annual Cesars ceremony. Held at the Chatelet theater, the evening was presided over by actress Charlotte Gainsbourg -- named most promising actress 23 years ago -- and hosted by TV personality/actor/director Antoine de Caunes.

De Caunes followed Hugh Jackman's Oscars sing-along with his own opening musical number, complete with an onstage shower as he sang "Singin' in the Rain."

More predictable than De Caunes' onstage antics was the best actor prize given to Vincent Cassel for his role as "Public Enemy Number One" in Jean-Francois Richet's eponymous "Mesrine" film. Richet was named best director for the two-part biopic about France's most famous criminal.

Elsa Zylberstein took the best supporting actress prize for "I've Loved You So Long." Philippe Claudel's Kristin Scott Thomas starrer also won the best first film award and is off to a strong start in U.S. theaters. An absent Jean-Paul Roussillon took the supporting actor nod for Arnaud Desplechin's "A Christmas Tale."

Ari Folman's animated documentary "Waltz With Bashir" was named best foreign film.

The celebratory evening was bittersweet as the Academy honored recently deceased Cesars founder Georges Cravenne and producers Claude Berri and Christian Fechner with homages. The night opened with a special dedication to Cravenne.

The running joke of the night was continuing the tradition of thanking Claude Berri despite the ubiquitous producer's notable absence. "Welcome to the Sticks" director and star Dany Boon made a surprise appearance in pajama pants and a tuxedo jacket after publicly expressing plans to boycott the awards when "Sticks" was snubbed in almost every category.

Emma Thompson presented Hoffman with his honorary Cesar award -- in French, no less -- after the actor was welcomed by Cultural Minister Christine Albanel into the French legion of honor the day before. The ceremony was broadcast live on pay TV network Canal Plus and followed by a Gala dinner at Fouquets restaurant and afterparty along Paris' famed Champs-Elysees.

Tilda Swinton and Monica Bellucci and Scott Thomas also helped add international flair to the evening.