PARIS • Isabelle Huppert and her hit thriller Elle were the big winners last Friday at the French Oscars - the Cesars - in a highly political ceremony marked by Hollywood star George Clooney warning that freedom had to be defended in the face of Mr Donald Trump's United States presidency.
"Courage trumps fear. Right always trumps might," the American actor said before quoting war reporter Edward F. Morrow's famous condemnation of the McCarthyite communist witch-hunts of the 1950s.
"Let's not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must not walk in fear of one another, we must not be driven by fear into an age of unreason," he said.
"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. We have to work harder not to let hate win," insisted Clooney, 55, as he received an honorary Cesar.
He was accompanied at the event by his human-rights lawyer wife Amal Clooney, 39, who showed off her baby bump in her first red- carpet appearance after the Clooneys announced they were expecting. Their twins are expected reportedly in June.
Elle, a subversive thriller about a woman who not only takes revenge on her rapist but also holds him in her power, won best film and best actress for Huppert, 63.
Her mesmerising performance in such a slippery and morally complex story has won her some of the best reviews of her career and made her one of the favourites for the Best Actress Oscar yesterday (this morning Singapore time).
The highly political winner of the Cannes Festival's Palme d'Or top prize, I, Daniel Blake, got the Cesar for Best Foreign Film.
Its veteran British director Ken Loach, 80, used the occasion to again accuse his country's Conservative government of "deliberate brutality" towards the poor. The moving drama tells of a carpenter's Kafka-esque struggle to get benefits after suffering a heart attack and being told by doctors he can no longer work.
The young director of the best documentary prize, Francois Ruffin, used his speech to excoriate French politicians for allowing manufacturing jobs to be delocalised to low-wage countries.
His fiercely comic film, Merci Patron! (Thanks Boss), skewered France's richest man, Mr Bernard Arnault, owner of the LVMH luxury goods empire, and was one of the year's surprise hits.
AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE