Sunday, March 01, 2009

French film honors Hoffman, Penn

The French film industry honored Dustin Hoffman and saluted Sean Penn Friday during a ceremony that saw its coveted Cesar for best film going to Martin Provost's "Seraphine."

In all, "Seraphine" took seven Cesars, the French equivalent of the Oscars. The film is based on the magical true-life story of a painter known as Seraphine of Senlis. Paris' Musee Mayol recently exhibited her works.

Yolande Moreau, who plays Seraphine, won in the 34th annual Cesar awards best actress category for her portrayal of the dimwitted maid whose talents as a painter were discovered by a German art collector on the eve of World War I.

The Cesar for best actor went to Vincent Cassel in "Mesrine," another story based on real life, this time the tale of a gangster. "Mesrine" won three Cesars, including the best director award to Jean-Francois Richet.

Dustin Hoffman, 71, received a special Cesar, a day after the two-time Oscar winner was named an honorary commander in France's National Order of Arts and Letters.

He fought back tears Thursday. On Friday, he was visibly awkward - and admitted it when collecting the Cesar to a standing ovation.

"I never learned how to bow," Hoffman said, adding that only acting made him feel sure of himself and declaring before leaving the stage, "I ain't finished yet."

This year's best-actor Oscar winner Sean Penn, a guest of honor, presented the best film award to Martin Provost for "Seraphine."

The "Milk" star's own movie, "Into the Wild," missed the best foreign film award which went to the Israeli animated documentary by Ari Folman "Valse avec Bachir" (Waltz With Bashir).

The French school drama "Entre les murs" (The Class) - which won the Cannes film festival last year - took home the Cesar for best adaptation. The Paris high school class that the film was based on presented the award for best set design - which went to Thierry Francois for "Seraphine."

On a disappointing note, the all-time box office hit for a French film, "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis," being remade in the United States by Will Smith as "Welcome to the Sticks," failed to take an honor in the only category for which is was nominated, best original scenario. That Cesar went to "Seraphine."

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