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César Nominations: Alain Resnais Is Back

Lambert Wilson, Laura Morante in Private Fears in Public Places
Marina Hands in Lady Chatterley
Samy Naceri in Days of Glory
Lambert Wilson, Laura Morante in Private Fears in Public Places (top); Marina Hands in Lady Chatterley (middle); Samy Naceri in Days of Glory (bottom)

The best thing about the 2007 César nominations is the fact that Alain Resnais' beautiful, haunting, magical Coeurs / Private Fears in Public Places received a total of 8 nominations, including a best director nod for Resnais himself, and a best screenplay nod for Jean-Michel Ribes' adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play.

The worst thing about the 2007 César nominations is the fact that Alain Resnais' beautiful, haunting, magical Coeurs / Private Fears in Public Places failed to receive a nomination in the best film category. Adding insult to injury, none of the film's generally outstanding performers – particularly Sabine Azéma, Pierre Arditi, Isabelle Carré, and André Dussollier – were nominated in any of the acting categories. (Dussollier, however, did land a best supporting actor nod, but for his role in Ne le dis à personne / Tell No One.)

Melanie Laurent in Don't Worry, I'm Fine
Kristin Scott Thomas, Francois Cluzet in Tell No One
Gérard Depardieu, Cecile De France in The Singer
Mélanie Laurent in Don't Worry, I'm Fine (top); Kristin Scott Thomas, François Cluzet in Tell No One (middle); Gérard Depardieu, Cécile De France in The Singer (bottom)

The French Academy's five best film nominees are:

Indigènes / Days of Glory - Rachid Bouchareb's socially significant but dramatically simplistic film about the contributions of North Africans to the Allied cause during World War II. Days of Glory helped to change an unbelievably nasty French law denying equal benefits to Algerian war veterans, but in terms of storytelling it crams in just about every possible war film cliché during its two-hour running time. (Bouchareb did an infinitely more pointed – and more cinematically effective – social critique in his 1991 satirical drama Cheb.)

Nonetheless, Days of Glory – a huge box office success in France – is the favorite in the best film race. It has also been nominated for a best foreign-language film Academy Award (2007), and its male principals won an ensemble best actor prize at the 2006 Cannes festival. Surprisingly, none of its actors were singled out for a César nomination.

Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas / Don't Worry, I'm Fine - Philippe Lioret's social drama about a young woman (best female newcomer nominee Mélanie Laurent) looking for her twin brother in a series of soulless, identity-less Truman Show-like Parisian suburbs. Lioret and Olivier Adam were nominated for their adaptation of Adam's novel.

Lady Chatterley - Pascale Ferran's adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's scandalous novel, with best actress and best female newcomer nominee Marina Hands as the adulterous aristocrat of the title role, and Jean-Louis Coulloc'h as the gamekeeper she loves (or lusts after) in an England where everybody speaks French.

Tell No One - Taken from Harlan Coben's suspense novel, Guillaume Canet's thriller follows a nice pediatrician (best actor nominee François Cluzet) who may not be such a nice guy after all – in fact, he may be his wife's murderer. The all-star cast includes Nathalie Baye, Kristin Scott Thomas, Marie-Josée Croze, Jean Rochefort, and best supporting actor nominee André Dussollier. (Cluzet was also nominated in the best supporting actor category for his performance in Quatre étoiles / Four Stars.)

Quand j'étais chanteur / The Singer - Writer-director Xavier Giannoli's tale of a love affair between a small-time singer (best actor nominee Gérard Depardieu) and a woman (best actress nominee Cécile De France) old enough to be his granddaughter – or almost.

The only one of the five best film nominees that failed to receive a matching best director nod was The Singer. Alain Resnais took Xavier Giannoli's slot.

Volver, Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen, and Brokeback Mountain are the best foreign film nominees.

Jean Dujardin in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies
Jean Dujardin in OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies

Among the other César nominees are Jean Dujardin as a sort of French James Bond in the popular spy comedy-action-thriller OSS 117 - Le Caire nid d'espions / OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, best film winner at last year's Seattle Film Festival; best actress nominee Catherine Frot, as a pianist in La Tourneuse de pages / The Page Turner; and veterans Mylène Demongeot and Bernadette Lafont, both nominated in the best supporting actress category, the former for La Californie / French California (that's the Mediterranean coast) and the latter for Prête-moi ta main / I Do.

Cecile De France, Dani, Valerie Lemercier in Avenue Montaigne
Cécile De France, Dani, Valérie Lemercier in Avenue Montaigne

Danièle Thompson's crowd-pleasing (and quite charming) ensemble piece Fauteuils d'orchestre / Avenue Montaigne surprisingly failed to nab a best picture nod (and a best foreign language film Academy Award nod), though it did receive three acting mentions: best actress nominee Cécile De France, who is competing against herself in Quand j'étais chanteur; and in the best supporting actress category, Dani, in a touching performance as a theater concierge about to retire, and Valérie Lemercier, hilarious as the stage and TV star who convinces exasperated Sydney Pollack to exclaim “Fuck Sartre!"

Additionally, Danièle Thompson and her son, actor Christopher Thompson (who also has a role in the film), were nominated for their original screenplay.

Michel Blanc, Medeea Marinescu in You Look So Handsome
Michel Blanc, Medeea Marinescu in You Look So Handsome

Another veteran, Michel Blanc, received a best actor nomination for his role as a widowed French farmer who tries to find himself a hardworking Romanian wife in director-writer Isabelle Mergault's Je vous trouve très beau / You Look So Handsome. Mergault was nominated for her original screenplay.

And speaking of veterans, Gérard Depardieu's nomination for Quand j'étais chanteur is his 15th – and his first in 12 years. The actor has won two Césars, for Le Dernier métro / The Last Metro (1980) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1990).

Jude Law will receive the César d'Honneur for his body of work. Previous recipients include long-standing veterans Sylvester Stallone and Will Smith. (Dakota Fanning is next in line, so I'm told.)

The Prix César 2007 winners will be announced on Feb. 24, one day before Hollywood's Academy Awards.

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