'A Prophet' scores nine Cesar Awards

Harrison Ford honored for career achievement

PARIS -- Jacques Audiard's prison drama "A Prophet" (Un Prophete) won nine awards, including French film of the year and best director, during the 35th annual Cesar Awards ceremony.

"Prophet" star Tahar Rahim won the best actor and most promising actor prizes Saturday at the Chatelet Theatre for his role as a young Arab man sent to French prison who eventually gains power among the reigning Corsican mafia. "Long live French cinema," Rahim proclaimed as he accepted his second prize.

French actress-singer Vanessa Paradis presented the director prize to Audiard, who thanked the Academy before launching into a politically charged talk about France's immigrant population.

Niels Arestrup, no stranger to Audiard's films, was named best supporting actor for his performance in "Prophet."

Nominated in 13 categories, "Prophet" -- which Sony Pictures Classics opened Friday in the U.S., where it has been nominated for the foreign-language film Oscar -- also won Cesars for original screenplay, cinematography, editing and production design.

The film has won this year's BAFTA award for foreign film in addition to being honored as French film of the year at the Globes de Cristal, the French Film Critics Syndicate Awards and the Louis Delluc Prize. "Prophet's" producers, Why Not Prods.' Pascal Caucheteux and Gregoire Sorlat, also were named producers of the year at the Daniel Toscan du Plantier Prize last week in Paris.

"Skirt Day's" Isabelle Adjani won the best actress prize for her starring role in Jean-Paul Lilienfeld's film. Gerard Depardieu presented a teary-eyed Adjani with the statuette, her fifth career Cesar.

The supporting actress nod went to Emmanuelle Devos for "In the Beginning." Melanie Thierry was named most promising actress for "One for the Road."

Riad Sattouf took home the Cesar for best first film for adolescent-angst comedy "Les Beaux gosses," known internationally as "The French Kissers."

Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino" was named foreign film of the year, beating the record-breaking "Avatar" in the category. Eastwood's son Kyle accepted the award for his father in perfect French.

The Cesar for adapted screenplay went to "Mademoiselle Chambon," written by Stephane Brize and Florence Vignon. The film's star, Sandrine Kiberlain, announced the win.

Anne Fontaine's biopic "Coco Before Chanel" made a fashionably late entrance to the ceremony, taking the prize for costumes.

Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea's "L'Enfer d'Henri-Georges Clouzot" was named best documentary.

Radu Mihaileanu's "The Concert," which takes place at the Chatelet, returned to the venue to accept awards for sound and musical score.

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The winning titles were quite serious, but the mood at France's version of the Oscars was not as Gallic comedians Valerie Lemercier and Gad Elmaleh earned laughs while presenting the awards. Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard, on her native soil, was the event's honorary president.

Adding to the upbeat mood was the fact that 2009 was a healthy year for French cinema, with 200 million tickets sold.

Sigourney Weaver presented Harrison Ford with a Cesar of Honor. Ford received a long standing ovation before accepting the career prize.

"It's a great honor to have this affirmation from the French Academy," he said. "I thank you with all of my heart."

The evening turned bittersweet as the Academy honored recently deceased director Eric Rohmer with an homage.

The Cesars aired live on pay TV powerhouse Canal Plus. The ceremony was followed by the traditional post-awards dinner at famed Paris restaurant Fouquet's, followed by a soiree to fete the winners.