The Intouchables movie, 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.
The Intouchables, I should add, is perfect Oscar bait. Inspired by real-life events, the audience-friendly comedy-drama directed by Éric 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 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar 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.
‘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.
The 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 Éric 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 Boxofficemojo.com. 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.
‘Innocence of Muslims’ vs. the Oscars: Iran’s official reason for boycotting the Academy Awards
Innocence of Muslims, the amateurish but relentlessly vicious anti-Muslim “film” whose Arabic-language version has been used as a pretext for deadly riots in several Muslim countries, is the official reason for the Iranian government’s decision to boycott the 2013 Academy Awards. Yesterday, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini stated that Iran would not submit a film for consideration for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. “I am officially announcing that in reaction to the intolerable insult to the Great Prophet of Islam we will refrain from taking part in this year’s Oscars,” Hosseini declared, “and we ask other Islamic nations to show their protest like this.” (Image: Iran’s near-Oscar 2013 entry A Cube of Sugar.)
Last year, the winner in that category was Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, the first Iranian entry to take home the Foreign Language Film Oscar. This year, Iran was going to submit Reza Mirkarimi’s A Cube of Sugar, a dramatic comedy about a family gathering for a wedding that, thanks to food poisoning (the fateful “cube of sugar” of the title), turns into a family gathering for a funeral.
Check out: “‘Innocence of Muslims’: Actors Repudiate Anti-Islam Film.”
Oscar boycott: Iran’s real reasons?
Now, Innocence of Muslims and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ “failure” to condemn the Media for Christ-backed production were the official reasons for Iran’s boycott of the Oscars. Yet, political moves, whether in theocracies such as Iran or in the world’s “democracies,” oftentimes have little in common with the official reasons given for them.
In fact, an Oscar victory – or even an Oscar nomination – for an Iranian movie might be perceived as a bigger threat to the Iranian regime than an anti-Muslim video made by a handful of rabid bigots. To the contrary: Innocence of Muslims is exactly the sort of pro-Islamic Republic propaganda the Iranian theocracy needs to reaffirm its indispensable position as Defender of the Faith.
On the other hand, an Academy gathering featuring an Iranian filmmaker discussing, say, working conditions in Iran or mentioning the name (of imprisoned filmmaker) Jafar Panahi, even in passing, would be a serious embarrassment to the country’s religious rulers.
Asghar Farhadi: Iranian people apart from Iranian theocracy
When a (“decadently”) tuxedoed Asghar Farhadi accepted the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for A Separation earlier this year, he made clear that there was a real-life separation between the Iranian people in general and Iran’s political-religious elite (and the just-as-dangerous political-religious elite on the other side, i.e., the United States). In Farhadi’s words:
At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker – but because at a time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.
Now, that is the kind of danger the Iranian government, which does not represent the vast majority of its people, wishes to avoid. In fact, when Farhadi returned to Iran following his Oscar victory, there was no official celebration.
Anyhow, the deadline for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar is Oct. 1. The powers-that-be within the Iranian government have about four days to change their minds and resubmit A Cube of Sugar.
Iran and ‘religious sensibilities’
And when it comes to cultural / religious sensibilities, let’s not forget that six years ago Iran hosted the first International Holocaust Cartoon Competition in answer to the Mohammad cartoons published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten.
Mohammad Hosseini quote: ISNA News Agency, via news.com.au.
A Cube of Sugar photo via Al Arabiya News.
Australia submits German-language & German-set World War II drama
Cate Shortland’s Lore is Australia’s entry for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Obviously, Lore isn’t in English. Curiously, the film’s dialogue isn’t in one of Australia’s aboriginal languages, either. Besides, Lore isn’t even set in Australia. (Image: Saskia Rosendahl Lore.)
Set in the spring of 1945, the German-language Lore follows a teenager (Saskia Rosendahl) and her siblings, as they cross Germany’s chaotic countryside after their Nazi parents are arrested. So, how is it possible for Australia to submit for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar a German-language film set in Europe?
Best Foreign Language Film: Academy rule changes
Well, thanks to (an enlightened) rule change effected about six years ago, countries have been able to submit films made in a language other than their own. In fact, the films can be filmed elsewhere as well (e.g., Canada’s 2006 Hindi-language nominee Water, directed by Deepa Mehta in South Asia), as long as top talent – usually the director and/or screenwriter and/or producer – is either a native of or based in the submitting country.
The year prior to the change, Michael Haneke’s Hidden was deemed ineligible as an Austrian submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar because the Paris-set drama starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil featured French dialogue. That same year, Italy had to scramble to find a replacement for Saverio Costanzo’s Private, set in the Palestinian territories and featuring Arabic, Hebrew, and English dialogue. (As an aside: The Italian-language replacement, Cristina Comencini’s Don’t Tell, was eventually shortlisted by the Academy.)
This year, Michael Haneke’s Amour is in contention for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. An Austrian submission, Amour – much like Hidden – is a French-language drama set in Paris. The fact that Amour (and the Australian Lore) won’t be facing the same absurd hurdles that eventually disqualified Hidden means the Academy has made (at least some) progress in the much-criticized Best Foreign Language Film category.
Saskia Rosendahl Lore photo: Memento Films.
‘War Witch’ is Canada’s Best Foreign Language Film Entry
Kim Nguyen’s French-language Rebelle / War Witch is Canada’s entry for the 2013 Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. Set in an undetermined nation in sub-Saharan Africa, the Tribeca Film Festival winner War Witch depicts the life and times of a child soldier, played by Tribeca and Berlin Film Festival Best Actress winner Rachel Mwanza. (Image: Rachel Mwanza War Witch.)
War Witch‘s Oscar chances are iffy – child warriors aren’t exactly the sort of subject matter the Academy’s staid, feel-good, conservative Best Foreign Language Film voters usually go for. But in all likelihood Nguyen’s sociopolitical drama will be a top contender for both the Genie Awards and Quebec’s Jutra Awards next year.
Canada’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominations
Canada has had six entries nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, including two in the last couple of years. They are: Denys Arcand’s The Decline of the American Empire (1986), Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal (1989), Arcand’s The Barbarian Invasions (2003), Deepa Mehta’s Water (2006), Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies (2010), and Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar (2011). Canada’s only winner to date has been The Barbarian Invasions.
Among the first-rate Canadian entries that have failed to be shortlisted by the Academy Best Foreign Language Film voters are Jean-Marc Vallée’s C.R.A.Z.Y. and Jean-Claude Lauzon’s Léolo.
War Witch image: Item 7 / Shen Studio.