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French César Surprise: Paris Banlieue Drama Named Best Film

Games of Love and Chance Osman Elkharraz: French CésarFrench César upset winner Games of Love and Chance with Osman Elkharraz. Featuring a cast of unknowns, Abdellatif Kechiche’s low-budget Paris banlieue-set drama was the “shocking” Best Film winner at this year’s Prix César.
  • French César Awards’ Best Film upset: Abdellatif Kechiche’s Games of Love and Chance. Featuring a cast of unknowns, the Paris banlieue-set drama beat bigger and internationally better-known productions like A Very Long Engagement and The Chorus.
  • Mathieu Amalric and Yolande Moreau were named Best Actor and Best Actress for, respectively, Kings & Queen and When the Sea Rises. The latter, which Moreau co-directed and co-wrote, was the Prix César’s Best First Film.

French César Awards’ Best Film trophy unexpectedly goes to low-budget drama about the socially disenfranchised

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Surprisingly, Abdellatif Kechiche’s Games of Love and Chance / L’Esquive, was named Best Film at the French César Awards, handed out by the Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques on Feb. 26 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. (See further below the full list of this year’s César du Cinéma winners and nominees.)

Featuring a cast of unknowns, Kechiche’s low-budget, Paris banlieue-set drama beat more high-profile efforts like Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement and Christophe Barratier’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee The Chorus.

In addition, Games of Love and Chance topped the Best Screenplay (Abdellatif Kechiche and Ghalia Lacroix) and Most Promising Actress (Sara Forestier) categories.

Set at a Parisian housing project filled with immigrants and their children, Kechiche’s drama centers on a withdrawn teenager (Osman Elkharraz) with artistic aspirations.

Big-budget international hit A Very Long Engagement wins most awards

In absolute numbers, the big budget, World War I-focused romantic drama A Very Long Engagement / Un long dimanche de fiançailles, starring Best Actress nominee Audrey Tautou, was the Prix César’s big winner, with a total of five awards: Best Supporting Actress (Marion Cotillard), Most Promising Actor (Gaspard Ulliel), Best Cinematography (Bruno Delbonnel), Best Production Design (Aline Bonetto), and Best Costume Design (Madeline Fontaine).

Yolande Moreau was a double winner: as Best Actress for and as the co-director – with Gilles Porte – of Best First Film When the Sea Rises / Quand la mer monte…. In the French-Belgian romantic comedy, Moreau plays a stage performer who becomes involved with a scooter-riding stranger (Wim Willaert).

Gad Elmaleh hosted this year’s César Awards, while four-time Best Actress Prix César winner Isabelle Adjani acted as President of the Ceremony.

For the record, Adjani’s Prix César wins were for the following: Possession (1981), One Deadly Summer / L’été meurtrier (1983), Camille Claudel (1988), and Queen Margot / La Reine Margot (1994).

French César & Étoile d’Or

Below is the full list of this year’s Prix César winners and nominees. Further down is the list of Étoiles d’Or winners, announced by the Academy of French Film Journalists.

Arnaud Desplechin’s Kings & Queen / Rois et reine topped four Étoile d’Or categories: Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Emmanuelle Devos), and Best Actor (César winner Mathieu Amalric).

Games of Love of Chance won one single Étoile d’Or: Best Female Newcomer for Sara Forestier, tied with Marilou Berry for Look at Me / Comme une image.

Prix César winners & nominations

36th Precinct / 36 Quai des Orfèvres.
The Chorus / Les Choristes.
* Games of Love and Chance.
Kings & Queen.
A Very Long Engagement.

European Union Film
* A Fond Kiss (U.K.), dir.: Mike Loach.
Bad Education / La Mala educación (Spain), dir.: Pedro Almodóvar.
Mondovino (Italy | France | Argentina | U.S.), dir.: Jonathan Nossiter.
Saraband (Sweden), dir.: Ingmar Bergman.
Life Is a Miracle / Zivot je cudo (Serbia and Montenegro | France), dir.: Emir Kusturica.

Foreign Film
21 Grams (U.S.), dir.: Alejandro González Iñárritu.
The Motorcycle Diaries / Diarios de motocicleta (U.S. | Argentina | Brazil), dir.: Walter Salles.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (U.S.), dir.: Michel Gondry.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (U.S.), dir.: Michael Moore.
* Lost in Translation (U.S. | Japan), dir.: Sofia Coppola.

First Film
A Common Thread / Brodeuses, dir.: Éléonore Faucher.
The Chorus.
Podium, dir.: Yann Moix.
* When the Sea Rises.
Work Hard, Play Hard / Violence des échanges en milieu tempéré, dir.: Jean-Marc Moutout.

Christophe Barratier, The Chorus.
Arnaud Desplechin, Kings & Queen.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet, A Very Long Engagement.
* Abdellatif Kechiche, Games of Love and Chance.
Olivier Marchal, 36th Precinct.

Maggie Cheung, Clean.
Emmanuelle Devos, Kings & Queen.
* Yolande Moreau, When the Sea Rises.
Audrey Tautou, A Very Long Engagement.
Karin Viard, The Role of Her Life / Le Rôle de sa vie.

* Mathieu Amalric, Kings & Queen.
Daniel Auteuil, 36th Precinct.
Gérard Jugnot, The Chorus.
Benoît Poelvoorde, Podium.
Philippe Torreton, The Light / L’Équipier.

Supporting Actor
François Berléand, The Chorus.
* Clovis Cornillac, The Story of My Life / Mensonges et trahisons et plus si affinités.
André Dussollier, 36th Precinct.
Maurice Garrel, Kings & Queen.
Jean-Paul Rouve, Podium.

Supporting Actress
Ariane Ascaride, A Common Thread.
* Marion Cotillard, A Very Long Engagement.
Mylène Demongeot, 36th Precinct.
Julie Depardieu, Podium.
Émilie Dequenne, The Light.

Most Promising Actor
Osman Elkharraz, Games of Love and Chance.
Damien Jouillerot, Bad Spelling / Les Fautes d’orthographe.
Jérémie Rénier, Work Hard, Play Hard.
* Gaspard Ulliel, A Very Long Engagement.
Malik Zidi, Changing Times / Les Temps qui changent.

Most Promising Actress
Marilou Berry, Look at Me / Comme une image.
* Sara Forestier, Games of Love and Chance.
Lola Naymark, A Common Thread.
Sabrina Ouazani, Games of Love and Chance.
Magalie Woch, Kings & Queen.

Screenplay, Original or Adaptation
36th Precinct, Olivier Marchal, Frank Mancuso & Julien Rappeneau.
Look at Me, Agnès Jaoui & Jean-Pierre Bacri.
* Games of Love and Chance, Abdellatif Kechiche & Ghalia Lacroix.
Kings & Queen, Arnaud Desplechin & Roger Bohbot.
A Very Long Engagement, Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Guillaume Laurant.

Clean, Eric Gautier.
Two Brothers / Deux frères, Jean-Marie Dreujou.
* A Very Long Engagement, Bruno Delbonnel.

36th Precinct, Hugues Darmois (as Hachdé).
* Two Brothers, Noëlle Boisson.
A Very Long Engagement, Hervé Schneid.

* The Chorus, Bruno Coulais.
Exiles / Exils, Tony Gatlif & Delphine Mantoulet.
A Very Long Engagement, Angelo Badalamenti.
The Light, Nicola Piovani.

Production Design
The Chorus, François Chauvaud.
Immortal / Immortel (ad vitam), Jean-Pierre Fouillet.
* A Very Long Engagement, Aline Bonetto.

Costume Design
Arsène Lupin, Pierre-Jean Larroque.
Podium, Catherine Bouchard.
* A Very Long Engagement, Madeline Fontaine.

36th Precinct.
* The Chorus.
A Very Long Engagement.

Short Film
* Cousines, dir.: Lyes Salem.
Hymne à la gazelle, dir.: Stéphanie Duvivier.
La Méthode Bourchnikov, dir.: Grégoire Sivan.
Les Parallèles, dir.: Nicolas Saada.

Honorary Awards
Jacques Dutronc.
Will Smith.

Étoiles d’Or winners

Film: Kings & Queen.

Director: Arnaud Desplechin, Kings & Queen.

Actress: Emmanuelle Devos, Kings & Queen.

Actor: Mathieu Amalric, Kings & Queen.

Screenplay: Agnès Jaoui & Jean-Pierre Bacri, Look at Me.

First Film: A Common Thread.

Male Newcomer: Julien Boisselier, Clara et moi.

Female Newcomer (tie): Marilou Berry, Look at Me; Sara Forestier, Games of Love and Chance.

Score: Bruno Coulais, The Chorus & Genesis.

“French César Surprise” endnotes

French Academy website.

Osman Elkharraz Games of Love and Chance image: New Yorker Films.

“French César Surprise: Paris Banlieue Drama Named Best Film” last updated in September 2021.

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