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Oscars 2012: An historic year for French cinema

Translated Monday 5 March 2012, by Claire Scammell and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Winner of five awards including Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor, The Artist has made the 2012 Oscars an historic year for France, the first non-Anglo-Saxon country to win the Oscar for Best Film.

The ten nominations the film The Artist received is exceptional in itself. In recent years French films with more than one nomination have been something of a rarity. Camille Claudel received two nominations in 1990, Cyrano de Bergerac received five in 1991, Indochine received two in 1993, Amélie received five in 2001 and The Chorus received two nominations in 2005.

Jean Dujardin’s win in the Best Actor category is also a first. Never before has a French actor won the coveted award for a leading part. And only three French actresses have received the Oscar - Claudette Colbert, Simone Signoret and Marion Cotillard.

Charles Boyer, Maurice Chevalier and Gérard Depardieu have been in the running for the Best Actor award seven times between them but have always been pipped to the post. Boyer and Chevalier did however each receive an Honorary Oscar.

The Franco-Argentine Bérénice Bejo missed out on the award for Best Supporting Actress; Juliette Binoche, recognised in 1997 for her performance in The English Patient, continues to fly the flag alone in this category.

As for Michel Hazanavicius, he is the second Frenchman to receive the award for Best Director; the Franco-Pole Roman Polanski won the category in 2003 with The Pianist.

Unlike his illustrious predecessors however - Claude Lelouch (A Man and a Woman) and the Franco-Greek Costa-Gavras (Missing) - Hazanavicius was unsuccessful in the category of Best Original Screenplay.

The Artist also picked up the Oscars for Best Costumes and Best Original Score, the French having long enjoyed success in the latter category. The composer Ludovic Bource, who wrote the score for The Artist, has joined three time winners Michel Legrand and Maurice Jarre, as well as Francis Lai and Georges Delerue on the list of winners.

France was not represented in the category of Best Foreign Film this year but it continues to be the category in which French cinema has enjoyed the most success throughout the history of the Oscars. The last French film to win the award was Régis Warnier’s Indochine in 1993; Catherine Deneuve also received a nomination in the category of Best Actress for this film.

And finally, although the animated film A Cat in Paris couldn’t stand up to Rango, a film which is steamrolling its way through the award season, it did continue the tradition of French animation being represented at the Oscars. Persepolis was nominated in 2008, The Illusionist in 2011 and Logorama won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film in 2010.

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