Thursday, March 4, 2010
...or Salud César! The annual awards ceremony given for excellence in French cinema took place last Saturday at the Théâtre Châtelet in Paris. The film, Le Concert was nominated in six categories, including Best Screenplay. And so it was that we received these fancy invitations to attend.
In a quick flurry, my silk jacket was mailed from Inverness, Matthew rented the obligatory "le smoking" from a tuxedo rental shop near Place Clichy, I visited Monsieur Serge at the Claire Montserrat Salon in our neighborhood -- emerging with a hairdo that bore a striking resemblance to that of the late Texas Senator, Ann Richards....But, somehow it all came together and we set forth by taxi to the theatre and the famous Red Carpet.
First given out 35 years ago, the César Awards are named after the sculptor, César Baldaccini (1921-1998) -- known simply as César -- who created the original trophy, from which all since have been struck. Rectangular in shape, they stand about 18" tall, and definitely have a look of sculpture from the 1970s (think Bufano).
Outside the theatre, and in spite of a light rain, a crowd of movie fans gathered behind the barriers to cheer on their favorite stars, who would not arrive for another hour or so. They gazed at us with interest as we made out way through the doors and up the red-carpeted staircase to the cocktail party, hosted by Canal +.
Needless to say, there were very few familiar faces among the well-dressed French Academy members who thronged the various cocktail party rooms. Rows of attractive young women greeted us as we came in, offering glasses of very fancy Chivas Regal Scotch Whiskey. I opted for champagne, but Matthew happily sipped this fine whiskey. There he is on the left with one person we did know, the editor of Le Concert, who was nominated in his category. By chance, we ran into the Russian actor who plays the lead in the film, a wonderfully charming fellow, who, also knowing no one there, happily fell in with us for a while.
Designed by Gabriel Davioud at the request of Baron Haussmann between 1860 and 1862, the Théâtre Châtelet seats 2500 people. It functions as a theatre, opera house, and concert hall. And for all those connected with Le Concert, it was a particularly perfect place for the César Ceremonies, as the final ten minutes of the movie -- the actual concert -- were filmed in this theatre.
Taking our seats in the auditorium, we caught sight of many beautiful people in beautiful gowns. One of my favorites was this shimmering old-fashioned Cinderella ball gown, worn by one of Charlie Chaplin's granddaughters. I wondered if it had once belonged to Oona Chaplin. It had the look of that era.
At nine o'clock promptly, the live televised broadcast of the awards ceremony began, and, somewhat like the Oscar ceremony, was considerably less interesting than the people-watching and the cocktails beforehand! The biggest thrill for me was hearing Matthew's name called out as one of the nominees for Best Screenplay. Alas, Le Concert did not win. This award, and the bulk of all the awards went to the film Un Prophète.
The biggest cheers came with the presentation of an Honorary César to Harrison Ford. A lengthy film clip chronicled just about every film he's ever appeared in, followed by a mini-Roast and Toast from a very elegantly-clad Sigourney Weaver. She spoke in immaculate French and English. In accepting the award, Harrison Ford seemed genuinely delighted to be so honored, giving his remarks in English -- which gave me a break from trying to follow all the French! By turning my neck at a certain angle from my seat, however, I could follow most of the presentations and in-between skits by reading the French from the same teleprompter as the emcees and presenters.
The final award for Best Picture went, as predicted to Un Prophète. A real sweep. Le Concert won two Césars, for sound and for music, giving us a good chance to stand up and cheer.
It was way past midnight by the time the awards had all been announced, and all the winners crowded onto the stage for a final bow. As we emerged out into Place Châtelet, the rains were pouring down. With no umbrellas, and still trying to protect my fancy hair-do, we scampered through the puddles and down into the Châtelet Metro station, where we were definitely the best-dressed passengers on the train.
A few hours sleep, and another big fête began -- our 40th wedding anniversary -- with Sonya in from New York, and Alex and Sonia in from London to help us celebrate, along with local Parisian friends. Among these was Anne-Marie Feenberg, who attended our wedding on 28 February 1970. Quite a weekend!