France has been aplenty repped at the Academy Awards recently with a 2008 Best Actress win for Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose and a nomination last year for Two Days, One Night. The Artist of course took Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director, among others, in 2012. But the country that literally invented cinema hasn’t had a horse in the Foreign Language Oscar race since 2009’s A Prophet, directed by Jacques Audiard. It did not win. The last time France won an Oscar in the category was with 1992’s Indochine from Régis Wargnier. When myriad countries are sending their first-evers for consideration, why is it so difficult for France to pick a winner?
The films put forth on the shortlist this year are: Catherine Corsini’s La Belle Saison which just debuted, and won a prize in Locarno. But it’s not really a talking point yet. Similarly, Marguerite just premiered to raves in Venice and was acquired by Cohen Media Group. It’s out in France as of yesterday. The other three are Cannes movies. Mustang won Label Europa Cinéma after it premiered in the Fortnight; La Loi Du Marché brought Vincent Lindon his first-ever prize as Best Actor; and Audiard’s Dheepan won the Palme’d’Or.
The committee that will whittle down the shortlist this year is made up of actress Nathalie Baye; Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Frémaux; Artist helmer Michel Hazanavicius; actress and director Mélanie Laurent; Unifrance president Jean-Paul Salomé; Alain Terzian, President of the Académie des César (France’s Oscar equivalent); and Serge Toubiana, President of the advance on receipts committee at national film org the CNC.
Two years ago, you may recall that Cannes Palme d’Or winner Blue Is The Warmest Color was not the representative put forth by France. That was down to a stance taken by Wild Bunch which had produced the movie and sold it internationally. They refused to budge off their release plans and so didn’t meet the criteria of going out by September 30.
Even going back 10 years ago, there was much hand-wringing over the selection of Christian Carion’s World War I drama Merry Christmas as the country’s submission, especially because March Of The Penguins was considered a shoo-in. Merry Christmas had done only a technical run in the north of France. And, March Of The Penguins ultimately took the Best Documentary Feature prize at the Oscars.
We’ll know on September 22 which film among the five advanced has made the cut. I’d expect Dheepan, with its timely themes and a proven director. For now, it’s “On verra.”