‘Elle’ could end 24-year drought for France in Foreign Language Film Oscar race

With “Elle,” France is hoping to snap a 24-year-long losing streak in the Best Foreign Language Film category. The film, about a successful woman being raped during a home invasion and her subsequent attempt to find out who violated her, is in a very good position to earn France its 40th bid in this race, thereby extending its record. Since the category was established in 1956, France has prevailed 12 times, second only to Italy which has 14 wins.

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“Elle” has been a huge critical success, meriting an impressive 89% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Guy Lodge (Variety) dubbed it “a possible career high for Paul Verhoeven.” Ann Hornaday (The Washington Post) said Huppert “owns the movie from its opening moments to its bizarre, but not entirely surprising, denouement.” And Ignatiy Vishnevetsky (The AV Club) called the film challenging “because it’s entertaining, because it’s laugh-out-loud funny, because it indulged its kinks.”

The last time France triumphed was with “Indochine” in 1992 and now “Elle” is looking to go down a similar path. “Indochine” also earned a Best Actress nomination for Catherine Deneuve and Huppert saw her Oscar chances receive a big boost in the past week as she has won the Best Actress prize from both the Los Angeles and New York critics. She has shot up to sixth place on our Best Actress chart with odds of 16/1.

Huppert has a very promising statistic in her favor with those wins with critics on both coasts. Their winners have overlapped 62 times and all but three of those went on to receive an Oscar nomination. The unlucky trio: Mona Washbourne in Supporting Actress for “Stevie” (LA in 1978 and NY in 1981), Bill Murray in Supporting Actor for “Rushmore” in 1998 and Sally Hawkins in Actress for “Happy-Go-Lucky” in 2008.

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“Elle” could also pick up a nomination in the Adapted Screenplay category for David Birke. Since 1945, 72 films in languages other than English have gotten Oscar nominations for their screenplays. Only 19 of those nominated were adaptations while 53 have been nominated for Original Screenplay. Five movies even went on to claim victory, all for original material: “Marie-Louise” from Switzerland in 1945, “The Red Balloon” from France in 1956, “Divorce, Italian Style” from Italy in 1962, “A Man and a Woman” from France in 1966 and “Talk to Her” from Spain in 2002.

Verhoeven could also sneak into Best Director. His status as a veteran filmmaker who has never been acknowledged by the academy could give him a serious narrative to campaign on. Also in his favor is that the helmers of 28 foreign language movies have gotten nominated since Federico Fellini broke that barrier in 1961 with “La Dolce Vita.” And “Elle”composer Anne Dudley could reap a bid; she won an Oscar in 1997 for Best Musical or Comedy Score for “The Full Monty.”

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