Wednesday, March 07, 2007

You missed me, you really missed me!

Fine, I know nobody actually noticed I was on vacation so let's go straight to this year's vastly entertaining movie awards—no, silly, not the Oscars but the Césars, the ones that are given out in France. For the second consecutive year the ceremony was hosted by Valérie Lemercier, whom I worship with the goo-goo eyes of a home-schooled 13-year-old. And after what she pulled off a couple of weeks ago, I'll start a cargo cult.

First of all, her entrance to the tune of Zouk Machine's 80s hit "Maldone" has already become an insta-classic. Check out, in particular, Almodovar's baffled look. Lemercier again pulled all the stops in another musical display later on, when she performed the cult dance scene from The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (1974) as part of a tribute to that movie's director, Gérard Oury, who died in 2006.

Another memorable moment came about when the French distributor of Little Miss Sunshine, which won for Best Foreign Film, accepted the award on behalf on the directors and unconsciously began lasciviously fondling the statuette. Classic live-TV moment.

And because nobody gets rudely interrupted by a swelling orchestra at the Césars, writer-director Pascale Ferran (whose Lady Chatterley eventually won for Best Film) was able to squat the stage with a very long prepared speech about the state of French cinema and the benefit situation of those who work in the industry. She went on and on and on in a deafening silence but the earnest awkwardness of the moment was delish.

Marina Hands (daughter of stage legend Ludmila Mikaël) won Best Actress for the title role in Lady Chatterley. Marion Cotillard might as well start preparing her 2008 acceptance speech now: She's selflessly amazing as Edith Piaf in La Môme. The movie's surprisingly good and I'm sure there'll be plenty of opportunities to come back to it when it's released here in June under the title La vie en rose (never mind there's already a charming Belgian movie called Ma vie en rose).

Other than that, it was really fun to be in France a few weeks before a presidential election. The big talk was about the candidates' real-estate holdings and just how many nuclear submarines the country owns, a question that stumped both major candidates, Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy. I also witnessed Sarko host Canal+'s evening show Le Grand Journal. Sarko's problem right now is that he has zero emotional capital, ie the French think he's efficient but also a cold-hearted jerk. When asked to pick a favorite movie scene, then, Sarko showed a clip from the 2001 tearjerker I Am Sam, in which Sean Penn goes all Method on us playing a retarded man. Unbelievably, the show's hosts didn't blink at such a naked display of political calculation.

Sarko's literary pick was Yasmina Reza's thin novel Nulle Part, from which he even read an excerpt. Though Reza's latest piece for the stage, A Spanish Play, has been panned in NYC, the choice seemed interesting until I later learned that Reza's following the candidate around in order to write a book about him.

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