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'The Intouchables' Movie: French Blockbuster & Brazilian Clown Among Oscar Submissions

The Intouchables Omar Sy Francois CluzetThe Intouchables: France's 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar entry

The Intouchables, France's biggest French-language blockbuster at the international box-office, is that country's official entry for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Distributed by The Weinstein Company in North America, The Intouchables has to date grossed a not inconsiderable $8.95 million in the United States. (Image: Omar Sy as Driss, François Cluzet as Philippe, The Intouchables.)

The Intouchables, I should add, is perfect Oscar bait. Inspired by real-life events, the audience-friendly comedy-drama directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache revolves around the friendship that develops between a black caregiver (Omar Sy) and his wealthy, quadriplegic white patient (François Cluzet). Earlier this year, Sy was a surprise Best Actor winner at the French Academy's César Awards ceremony, beating eventual Best Actor Oscar winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist). (Note: The real-life caregiver, Abdel Sellou, was not black, but a light-skinned Algerian.)

The Intouchables: French box office phenomenon

The Intouchables became a box office phenomenon in France after opening in early November 2011, ultimately collecting an astounding $166.12 million – and thus becoming the country's second biggest blockbuster ever (in ticket sales), trailing only Welcome to the Sticks (2008). In fact, France was one of the few markets where Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 was a box office also-run upon its Nov. 2011 debut.

France with two Oscar 2013 Best Foreign Language Film submissions?

As for those wondering about the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner Amour, which is also in the running for a 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination: Amour is a Franco-Austrian co-production. Though set in Paris and starring French actors (Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva, Isabelle Huppert), Academy rules in effect since 2007 allowed Haneke's native Austria to submit the film.

Another potential French contender for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar was Jacques Audiard's Cannes entry Rust and Bone, starring Marion Cotillard. Rust and Bone is out of that particular Oscar race, of course, but Cotillard remains a potential Best Actress contender, as Audiard's drama opens in the US on Nov. 23.

Omar Sy, François Cluzet The Intouchables photo: The Weinstein Company.

Sept. 20

The Clown Oscar 2013 Selton Mello O PalhacoOscar 2013: The Clown is Brazil's submission

Selton Mello's The Clown / O Palhaço is Brazil's entry for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Actor Mello's second feature film as a director, following Merry Christmas / Feliz Natal (2008), The Clown apparently follows a similar path to that of Carlos Diegues' road movie Bye Bye Brasil. (Image: Teuda Bara [I'm assuming that's an homage to Theda Bara] and Selton Mello The Clown.) [See Portuguese-language trailer below.]

In Mello's comedy-drama released in Brazil in November 2011 (local gross $6.72 million), father and son Valdemar (veteran Paulo José) and Benjamin (Mello), better known as the clowns Puro Sangue (“Purebred”) and Pangaré (“Nag”), travel with the Circo Esperança (“Circus Hope”) through southwestern Brazil's country roads. One day, however, Benjamin decides he's no longer funny and that it's time to settle down.

Co-written by Selton Mello and Marcelo Vindicato, The Clown also features Larissa Manoela, Giselle Motta, Teuda Bara, Álamo Facó, Cadu Fávero, Erom Cordeiro, Hossen Minussi, Maíra Chasseraux, and veteran Moacyr Franco.

Brazil's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominations

Four Brazilian entries have been shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar: Anselmo Duarte's Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or winner The Given Word / Keeper of Promises / O Pagador de Promessas (1962); Fábio Barreto's O Quatrilho (1995); Bruno Barreto's Four Days in September / O Que É Isso, Companheiro? (1997), starring Fernanda Torres, and featuring Alan Arkin and some English dialogue; and Walter Salles' Central Station (1998), which also earned Fernanda Montenegro (Torres' mother) a Best Actress nod.

Though set in Brazil and featuring a mostly Brazilian cast speaking Portuguese, Marcel Camus' 1959 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar winner Black Orpheus was officially a French entry. Bye Bye Brasil was submitted in 1981, but failed to be shortlisted by the Academy.

Teuda Bara, Selton Mello The Clown photo: Bananeira Filmes.

Sept. 10

The Intouchables Francois Cluzet Omar SyThe Intouchables is France's biggest French-language blockbuster worldwide

The Intouchables is now officially the most successful French-made, French-language movie ever at the international box office, reports AlloCine. “International” as in, outside of France. (Image: The Intouchables Omar Sy, François Cluzet.)

According to Unifrance, Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano's brotherhood-of-men comedy starring François Cluzet and Best Actor César winner Omar Sy has sold 23.1 million tickets in more than 50 countries, thus breaking the 10-year-old record of the Audrey Tautou vehicle Amelie / Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain. In the coming months, there's a good chance The Intouchables will pass the 25 million tickets-sold milestone, as the film has yet to open in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Intouchables box office figures

To date, The Intouchables has grossed a whopping $364.13 million at the worldwide box office – $166.12 million in France alone – according to figures found at Box Office Mojo. In Germany, it's the biggest 2012 box office hit, with $74.62 million. Other top territories (with various “up until” dates) are Spain with $19.91 million, Italy with $18.16 million, South Korea with $11.09 million, the United States with $8.54 million, and Belgium with $8.46 million.

If non-French-language movies are added to the mix, the top French-made productions at the international box office – chiefly thanks to the United States – remain Luc Besson's The Fifth Element, featuring Bruce Willis, and Pierre Morel's Taken, with Liam Neeson. The former sold 35 million tickets; the latter sold 31 million.

Note that in France (and a number of other countries), box office success is tallied according to tickets sold – not box office grosses. And that's how it should be, so as to avoid distortions caused by inflation and/or special surcharges that are a staple of American box office reports.

The Intouchables Omar Sy, François Cluzet photo: The Weinstein Company.

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