Roman Polanski's Palme d'Or winner, The Pianist, swept the 28th Cesar Awards in Paris Saturday night. In the major categories the film took Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor in what ended up to be a trouncing of odds-on favorite 8 Women.
Francois Ozon's musical murder mystery had been heavily touted to walk away with several prizes out of its 13 nominations - the most for any film this year - but in the end it was The Pianist: 7, 8 Women: 0.
Polanski, who also accepted awards on behalf of his crew who won several awards, seemed bowled over by the accolades bestowed upon him and his film which he dedicated to the "martyrs and heros" of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Adrien Brody, who took the best actor statuette, was moved to tears when he thanked Polanski and told the audience, "This is my first award, so thanks!"
The other big winner of the night was Se Souvenir Des Belles Choses, a first film by Zabou Breitman which won the best first film prize and awards for two of its actors: Isabelle Carre in the lead actress category and Bernard Le Coq for his supporting actor role. Best supporting actress went to Karin Viard for Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez.
There is likely to be some controversy following the awards given that The Pianist, though a bona-fide French film, is an English-language production and Constantin Costa-Gavras' Amen - which took best screenplay - was also shot in English.
However, on the truly foreign side Pedro Almodovar's Oscar nominated Talk To Her won the newly inaugurated Best Film from the European Union award and Michael Moore's anti-gun documentary Bowling For Columbine took the Best Foreign Film prize. Response to both wins was ebullient especially as both directors are favorites in France and at Cannes. Moore made a point of thanking France for "standing up to America" referring to this country's stance against war with Iraq.
Honorary Cesars went to Meryl Streep who charmed the audience with a prepared speech in French. Spike Lee was also singled out and like countryman Moore spoke out against war. The third lifetime achievement Cesar went to New Wave veteran, actress Bernadette Laffont.
Despite protesters outside Paris' Chatelet Theatre representing "les intermittants du spectacle," working actors who are vying to be given recognised status in France, and one union representative who called for a boycott of all media on February 25th, the event came off without a hitch.
Still, a pall hung over the room as the night was dedicated to the recently deceased Daniel Toscan du Plantier - president of the Cesar academy and of Unifrance. The ceremony opened with a montage of pictures of Toscan and a tribute read by an emotional Isabelle Huppert.
Full List of Awards
Best French Film - The Pianist
Best Director - Roman Polanski (The Pianist)
Best Actor - Adrien Brody (The Pianist)
Best Actress - Isabelle Carre (Se Souvenir des Belles Choses)
Best Supporting Actor - Bernard Le Coq (Se Souvenir des Belles Choses)
Best Supporting Actress - Karin Viard (Embrassez Qui Vous Voudrez)
Best New Talent (Male) - Jean-Paul Rouve (Monsieur Batignolle)
Best New Talent (Female) - Cecile de France (Europudding)
Best First Film - Se Souvenir des Belles Choses (Zabou Breitman)
Best Screenplan (adapted or orignial) - Costa-Gavras and Jean-Claude Grumberg (Amen)
Best Foreign Film - Bowling For Columbine (Michael Moore)
Best Film from the European Union - Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar)
Best Score - Wojciech Kilar (The Pianist)
Best Cinematography - Jeanne Lapoirie (The Pianist)
Best Art Direction - Allan Starski (The Pianist)
Best Costumes - Philippe Guillotel, Tanino Liberatore and Florence Sadaune (Asterix And Obelix: Mission Cleopatra)
Best Sound - Jean-Marie Blondel, Gerard Hardy and Dean Humphreys (The Pianist)
Best Editing - Nicolas Philibert (Etre Et Avoir)
Best Short Film - Peau De Vache (Gerard Hustache-Mathieu)