Why Wild Bunch Wouldn't Budge On 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' Release For Oscar Eligibility

Yesterday’s announcement that Gilles Bourdos’ period drama Renoir would be France’s entry for the Foreign-Language Oscar race was a bit of a head-scratcher. Once it became clear a few months ago that Cannes Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color (aka Adèle: Chapters 1&2) would not be eligible, other possible titles were floated including previous Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi’s The Past. But Renoir was not really on the radar — not the least because it had debuted in a Cannes sidebar in 2012. Academy Foreign Language rules stipulate that a film must be released domestically between October 1st and September 30th and Renoir was a fit because it went out in January this year in France. Blue, however, is not releasing until October 9th, meaning it misses the cut-off. Many have wondered why Wild Bunch, which is distributing Blue in France, would not change the October 9th date to qualify. Company co-founder Vincent Maraval tells me today, “There was never any question for us to modify in any way our release strategy to legitimize the stupidity of the Oscar rules. Should we risk our strategy for France for a Foreign Language Film Oscar which doesn’t add anything to a Palme d’Or?” He contends that the Foreign Language Oscar “no longer means anything for a film that was crowned in Cannes” and says the rules are “unique, specific and make no sense. At the same time, no one cares about this category. We’re aiming for (Blue) in all categories, the only ones that count.”

Related: OSCARS: Cannes Palme d’Or Winner Ineligible For Foreign Language Category

Of Renoir, which Wild Bunch sold internationally, Maraval says it’s “a perfect film for the Academy: classic, esthetic and cultural in the same vein as (1994 Foreign Language Oscar winner) Belle Epoque or (1991 winner) Mediterraneo. It got rave reviews from U.S. critics and it’s the highest-grossing French film in the U.S. this year with $2.2M. Objectively, it’s the most legitimate candidate.”

Previous nominees “The Class and A Prophet showed in the past that a movie like Renoir has more of a chance” than Blue, Maraval added. Or, evidently, than a mega-hit like The Intouchables which failed to secure a nomination last year. The last Gallic movie to win a Foreign Language Oscar was 1992’s Indochine. And of course, the last French film to win big at the Oscars was 2011’s The Artist which took Best Picture — and was also a Wild Bunch title.

  1. He’s right in that the Foreign Film rules make no sense. On the other hand, it wasn’t particularly politic to make the assertion. Plus I wonder if Abdellatif Kechiche would have minded having an Oscar on his shelf.

  2. First of all, I agree with Wild Bunch that the October deadline is a dumb rule. Why October 1st for Foreign Films, but the end of December for the rest?

    Second, I disagree with Wild Bunch on the idea that the Foreign Film award is one where “no one cares about this category.” Any distributor is happy to get a nomination as it adds to a nominees box office (or even to a film getting released AT ALL in the USA).

    Third, RENOIR did NOT get ” rave reviews from U.S. critics”: It got a pretty good 72 on Rotten Tomatoes and middling 64 on Metacritic.

    Finally, RENOIR will NOT win in this category, whereas as BLUE had a darn good chance. RENOIR will be lucky to make the final 9 pre-cut.

    1. Renoir is on the New York Times Critics’ Pick list, got 80% (not 72) on Rotten Tomatoes, and it was the sleeper hit at the box office this year that managed to achieve #1 status for a non-English speaking film for its entire theatrical release, with extended runs in major US cities. What gives? It makes total sense that Renoir gets this nomination. No one can deny that despite being under the radar, Renoir appears to have left quite an impression on both sides of the Atlantic.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree with him on the Best Foreign category. Two Years ago A SEPARATION was hands down the BEST movie released, the best movie reviewed on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. It didn’t even get a nomination, while films like Extremely Loud and War Horse got a Best Picture nomination. The Academy isn’t as much open to foreign films as Cannes is to American films, directors and actors.

    1. I totally agree with you regarding A Separation…That film was stunning it deserved Best Picture, Golden Globe, Palme d’Or, etc. It would be great if Adele Exarchopoulos and Lea Seydoux are recognized for their work in getting nominated for best actress and supporting actress

  4. Renoir is a great choice for France. Everything about that movie is French. It got rave reviews from the most important publications catering to that audience: New York Times, LA Times, Boston Globe, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal and many many more. Renoir obviously resonated with people because the box office numbers are there and cannot be denied. It’s a beautiful little French film that found a large American audience, pure and simple. Renoir’s nomination is well deserved. Applause.

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