As we stumble into the third year of CE (COVID era!), cinema, just like all areas of human activity, is constantly adjusting to fresh circumstances, from film sets to cinema attendance, festivals and awards ceremonies.
The French industry has always been among the most robustly resistant of the national cinema industries across the entire equation, from writing to streaming. This is mostly due to the fact that its citizens and professionals oblige the government to do what is necessary to ensure continuity. More than anywhere else, it is almost as if the 7th Art was a basic human right: people have a right to movies as art, as entertainment and as a manifestation of cultural identity, be it mainstream or minority.
Concretely, this means that all outlets and formats, from French TV channels and, now, streaming services have investment obligations in French and European productions and this funding is spread across the entire range from large to small budgets.
The investment contracts with the major streaming services are all but agreed in exchange for allowing market access and the relaxing distribution window delays.
Canal+, the French subscription service has, since its inception in 1984, been the most important investor in French and European film. In December 2021, it signed a new three year commitment to invest €600 in production.
Canal+ also has broadcast exclusivity for the French César Awards and this Jan 17th, it again broadcast the Lumière Awards, the French International Press prizes, with which Scannain is associated.
This year again, the ceremony had to forego the large format red carpet jamboree, in favour of a more intimate TV studio event. One of the upsides of this was that only the winners attended, so no brave faces among the also-ran nominees and also by eliminating this false suspense, some true film appreciation conversations could happen between the presenting journalists and the award winners.
2022’s Best Film was L’Evénement (Happening), by writer-director Audrey Diwan for her second feature. Anamaria Vartolomei, took Best Actress for her magnetic performance. Already the Golden Lion winner in Venice, L’Evénement tells the realistically fraught tale of a young student in 1963 who, on realising her future is imperilled, and despite the shame and even risk of prison, decides to have an abortion at a time when it was still illegal in France. While the film recounts a seemingly distant past, recent retrograde movements in the US and Poland, to cite but these, make the issue far too pertinent again today.
On the other end of the verisimilitude scale, Leos Carax’s idiosyncratic Annette took three prizes. As in Cannes, it won Best Director and Best Music for Ron and Russel Mael, aka Sparks, who originated the project. It also added the Lumière for Best Cinematography, for the technical versatility of Caroline Champetier.
Taking Best Screenplay was Xavier Gianolli’s Illusions Perdues (Lost illusions) and adaptation of Balzac’s book, a 19th century tale of a talented young provincial poet who comes to Paris full of innocence and hope only to find the cultural capital replete with venality, artistic jealousy and betrayal and demonstrating a rather contemporary insight on the manufacture of fake news. It’s a particularly successful period piece with a brilliant cast and a highly entertaining tempo.
One prize that is unique to the international nature of the Prix Lumières, and which also reflects the French propensity to invest in foreign films, is the best minority Co-Production, i.e. between 20-49% of the film’s budget. This Year’s winner was Verdens verste menneske (The Worst Person in the World or Julie (en 6 chapitres)) by Norwegian Joachim Trier. Julie is a young woman who seems to arbitrarily and abruptly change her mind about her career/study path or who to love, why, how and when, providing her with existential angst and us with a delightful stream of shifts and narrative changes.
The full awards list at: https://academiedeslumieres.com/
Best Film: L’EVENEMENT by Audrey Diwan
Best Direction: Leos Carax for ANNETTE
Best Screenplay: Xavier Giannoli for ILLUSIONS PERDUES
Best Documentary: LA PANTHERE DES NEIGES by Marie Amiguet and Vincent Munier
Best Animation : LE SOMMET DES DIEUX by Patrick Imbert
Best Actress : Anamaria Vartolomei in L’EVENEMENT
Best Actor : Benoît Magimel in DE SON VIVANT
Best Female Newcomer: Agathe Rousselle in TITANE
Best Male Newcomer: Thimotée Robart in LES MAGNETIQUES
Best First Film : GAGARINE by Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh
Best International coproduction : JULIE (EN 12 CHAPITRES) by Joachim Trier
Best Cinematography: Caroline Champetier for ANNETTE
Best Music: Ron Mael and Russell Mael / SPARKS for ANNETTE