The French film community held its César Awards yesterday, the country’s equivalent to the U.S. Oscars. The actual results of the competition weren’t especially surprising, with Ladj Ly’s chaotic crime drama Les Misérables taking home Best Picture, and Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite adding yet another “Best Foreign-Language Film” award to its pile. Indeed, the ceremony’s most notable moment was only indirectly related to what was happening on its stage, as Portrait Of A Lady On Fire star Adèle Haenel pointedly walked out of the theater after the announcement of this year’s Best Director award, which went to convicted sexual abuser Roman Polanski.
Polanski—who avoided the ceremony over self-stated fears that he’d be “lynched”—was nominated for his film An Officer And A Spy, centered on a 19th century case of a man being persecuted for decades after being falsely accused of a crime, which, yes, is pretty much exactly the sort of movie we’d expect Roman Polanski to put out these days. Per Deadline, event host Florence Foresti joked early in the evening that there were going to be “12 moments” where the audience would be uncomfortable that night, presumably as a reference to the 12 nominations the film (which also won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival) received.
France has, of course, always taken a softer touch on Polanski, who fled to the country after pleading guilty to statutory rape in the United States in 1978. That being said, his nominations for this year’s Césars sparked a new round of protest and criticism, culminating in walkouts from Haenel and several other attendees at the ceremony. The Portrait star has been a vocal member of the #MeToo movement, having previously stated that she was abused while working as a child actress in the country’s film industry. Haenel suggested in a recent New York Times interview that the movement has functionally failed in France, citing the “paradox” of the country’s response: “It is one of the countries where the movement was the most closely followed on social media, but from a political perspective and in cultural spheres, France has completely missed the boat.”
Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire won one award at yesterday’s César’s, for Best Cinematography.