France won the last of its 12 Best Foreign Language Film Oscars 20 years ago with "Indochine." Since then it has contended unsuccessfully eight more times. On Tuesday, it was announced that the smash box office hit "The Intouchables" would fly the tricolor at this year's Academy Awards. The selection committee was faced with a tough choice between two films about physically challenged people opting for "The Intouchables" over "Rust and Bone."
"The Intouchables" is the heartwarming story of the unlikely friendship that develops between Philippe, a wealthy quadraplegic (Francoise Cluzet), and Driss, a poor young man (Omar Sy), who is hired as his live-in carer. Oliver Nakache and Eric Toledano co-directed this dramedy which shattered box office records in France and is the second-highest grossing non English film worldwide (behind "The Passion of the Christ"). The Weinstein Company handled American distribution and the film has taken in just over $11 million since May 25.
"Rust and Bone" stars 2007 Oscar champ Marion Cotillard as an animal trainer who loses her legs in an accident and falls for an unemployed young father (Matthias Schoenaerts). This unlikely love story will be released Stateside by Sony Pictures Classics on Nov. 25. Helmer Jacques Audiard also directed "A Prophet" which was France's entry in the 2009 Oscar derby. That film lost to "The Secrets in Their Eyes" from Argentina.
Back in 2007, "La Vie en Rose" as well as "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" were passed over by the French selection committee in favor of the animated "Persepolis." While that film was snubbed in the Foreign Language race, it did contend for Best Animated Feature, losing to "Ratatouille."
While "Rust and Bone" won't be contending in the foreign language category, Cotillard is a strong possibility for Best Actress. She is predicted to be nominated by all but one of our Experts. And Edward Douglas (Coming Soon) expects her to win a bookend.
One of Cotillard's rival nominees might well be Emmanuelle Riva who headlines the French language "Amour." That touching tale of a long and happy marriage from Michael Haneke won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes filmfest. Due to a quirk in Oscar eligibilty, this film must be submitted by Austria where the German born director holds dual citizenship.