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The French Touch at the Oscars

Nine films and figures with links to France, Quebec, and Lebanon have been nominated for the Oscars, which will be taking place in Los Angeles on March 4, 2018. The ceremony will be broadcast live on ABC in the United States and on Canal+ in France.

Victor Caire and Gabriel Grapperon / Garden Party / Best Animated Short Film

This seven-minute film is the final-year project of six students at the MoPA animation school in Arles, France, and follows the adventures of a group of frogs as they explore a luxury mansion. Skillfully avoiding the pitfalls of anthropomorphism, this short film is the “most beautifully made 3D animated film in years,” says the website AnimatedShortFilms.net. The work was critically acclaimed at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

Timothée Chalamet / Call Me by Your Name / Best Actor

Timothée Chalamet was born in New York to an American mother and a French father, and is the youngest person nominated in this category since 1944. At just 22, he has already been praised for his performances in the television series Homeland and the Hollywood blockbuster Interstellar. In Call Me by Your Name (four nominations, including Best Picture), he plays Elio, a teenager exploring his homosexuality. The French-American actor is also on the cast of Lady Bird (five nominations) and will be on the bill of Woody Allen’s next movie, A Rainy Day.

Bruno Delbonnel / Darkest Hour / Best Cinematography

This isn’t the first time the French director of photography has been in the running for an Oscar. The Nancy-born Bruno Delbonnel has been commended for his work in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie and A Very Long Engagement, as well as for Inside Llewyn Davis, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. In this movie retracing Winston Churchill’s first months in office, the Frenchman successfully recreated the moody half-light of England in 1940.

Alexandre Desplat / The Shape of Water / Best Original Music Score

The music by the French film composer has been the soundtrack to some of the greatest cinematic successes since the 1980s. Without missing a beat, Alexandre Desplat shifts from one genre to another, and the awards keep on coming. He received a César for Rust and Bone and The Ghost Writer, a Grammy for The King’s Speech, and a first Oscar for The Grand Budapest Hotel. His latest work, The Shape of Water, will be the ninth Oscar nomination for this multi-instrumentalist, who plays the piano, the trumpet, and the flute.

Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman / Loving Vincent / Best Animated Feature

The director is Polish, the co-screenwriter is English, but the whole movie takes place in France — first in Paris and then in Auvers-sur-Oise — looking back over the life of the renowned impressionist painter. As the first animated feature film made exclusively using handmade paintings, Loving Vincent literally brings the master’s works to life. A total of 94 paintings were fully recreated, and 31 were partially reproduced. “Van Gogh’s lifework is the real star of the movie,” said the director to France-Amérique when the film was released in the United States.

Ziad Doueiri / The Insult / Best Foreign Language Film

After studying in San Diego and 18 years spent in Los Angeles, the Lebanese director and Quentin Tarantino’s former assistant cameraman moved to Paris. “I love the work dynamic [in the United States], but I feel truly free in France. There is an incredible tolerance there,” he said to France-Amérique in an interview for the theatrical release of his fourth feature film. The movie portrays Lebanon haunted by the memory of its civil war and undermined by religious tensions.

Christopher Nolan / Dunkirk / Eight nominations including Best Picture 

This historical movie is “one of the most difficult things [I have] ever done,” said Christopher Nolan. Filmed on land, in the sea, and in the air, the movie depicts a little-known event during World War II, when 400,000 soldiers were evacuated from Northern France in June 1940 after being trapped by the advancing German army. The movie had a budget of 100 million dollars, and many inhabitants of the Hauts-de-France region where it was filmed were cast as extras.

Agnès Varda and JR / Faces Places / Best Documentary Feature

The producer Charles Cohen is American, but everything in this movie is an ode to France. Agnès Varda, an iconic director of the Nouvelle Vague, and JR, whose giant portrait photos adorn the façades of buildings all over the world, travelled across France in a truck-cum-photo-booth. From Manche to Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the pair make it their mission to take photo portraits of the people they meet. The result is a poetic road movie that picked up the award for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival.

Denis Villeneuve / Blade Runner 2049 / Five nominations including Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects

With Ryan Gosling, Jared Leto, and Harrison Ford, the French-Canadian director couldn’t have wished for a more highflying cast for the sequel to Blade Runner. The first opus directed by Ridley Scott in 1982 took place in a post-apocalyptic world, a setting recreated to the letter by this highly-awaited feature film. The dystopian movie was the “riskiest project of [Denis Villeneuve’s] career,” wrote Variety, and the director himself admitted he had never been put under such intense “artistic pressure.”

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