'Lady Chatterley' tops French Cesar awards


PARIS -- Luck was a lady Saturday night as Pascale Ferran's "Lady Chatterley" won the prize for best film in a tight race at the 32nd annual Cesar Awards, France's top film honors.

The adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's steamy novel beat out Guillaume Canet's thriller "Tell No One" and Rachid Bouchareb's World War II drama "Days of Glory"; all three were nominated for nine awards.

"Chatterley" took home four other honors at the ceremony, including adaptation, costumes and cinematography. Pedro Almodovar presented the award for best actress to Marina Hands for her title role in "Chatterley" as the wife of a paralyzed aristocrat who finds passion with a gamekeeper. Prix Louis Delluc winner "Chatterley" has been a critics' favorite despite a modest 200,000 admissions to date, By comparison, "Glory" had sold 3.2 million tickets and "No One" moved 2.8 million.

Francois Cluzet won the best actor prize for his portrayal of a man searching desperately for his missing wife in "No One." Canet picked up the best director award for the film, which also landed honors for music and editing.

"Glory," Algeria's Oscar hopeful that tells the story of North Africans who fought to liberate France during WWII, scored only one Cesar for original screenplay despite its nine nominations.

Kad Merad was awarded the supporting actor Cesar for Philippe Lioret's coming-of-age drama "Don't Worry, I'm Fine," which also saw a best female newcomer win for Berlinale Shooting Star Melanie Laurent. Best male newcomer went to Malik Zidi for "13 (Tzameti)."

The Cesar for best first film was awarded to Isabelle Mergault for "You Are So Beautiful."

"Being Jacques Chirac," a look at the political life of the French president, was named best documentary film, a new category this year.

Hilary Swank added some Hollywood glamour to the scene, presenting the award for best foreign film to awards-season favorite "Little Miss Sunshine."

Marlene Jobert and Jude Law received honorary Cesars, and the academy paid homage to director Gerard Oury and actor Philippe Noiret, both of whom passed away last year.

Xavier Giannoli's "When I Was a Singer," took home the prize for sound, and French James Bond spoof "OSS 117" won for set design.

Valerie Lemercier, named best supporting actress for her role as frustrated bipolar actress in "Avenue Montaigne," hosted the evening at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris. The ceremony -- named for sculptor Cesar Baldaccinim who designed the awards -- was more "Oscarized" this year with luxurious pre-awards dinners at the Ritz and Fouquets, swag suites organized by Los Angeles-based gift bag queen Nathalie Dubois and a media-frenzied red carpet and on-site press room filled with cameras.

Canal Plus broadcast the ceremony with a live red carpet preshow and "apres-Cesar" hosted by the network's Laurent Weil. The awards show was followed by a VIP dinner at Fouquet's, a party at the Galerie Royale and those stars not worn out from the almost three-hour-long spectacle finished off the evening at Parisian hot spot Regine's.

A complete list of winners follows.

FILM "Lady Chatterley," Gilles Sandoz

DIRECTOR Guillaume Canet, "Tell No One"

ACTOR Francois Cluzet, "Tell No One"

ACTRESS Marina Hands, "Lady Chatterley"

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY Olivier Lorelle and Rachid Bouchareb, "Days of Glory"

ADAPTATION Pascale Ferran, Rover Bohbot and Pierre Tridivic, "Lady Chatterley"

CINEMATOGRAPHY Julien Hirsch, "Lady Chatterley"

SUPPORTING ACTOR Kad Merad, "Don't Worry, I'm Fine"

SUPPORTING ACTRESS Valerie Lemercier, "Avenue Montaigne"

FEMALE NEWCOMER Melanie Laurent, "Don't Worry, I'm Fine"

FIRST FILM "You Are So Handsome," Isabelle Mergault

DOCUMENTARY FILM "Being Jacques Chirac," Karl Zero, Michel Royer

SOUND Francois Musy and Gabriel Hafner, "When I was a Singer"

ORIGINAL SCORE Mathieu Chedid, "Tell No One"

SET DESIGN Maamar Ech Cheikh, "OSS 117"

COSTUMES Marie Claude Altot, "Lady Chatterley"

EDITING Hervede Luze, "Tell No One "

SHORT FILM "Fais de beaux reves," Marilyne Canto

FOREIGN FILM "Little Miss Sunshine," Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris