As the September 30th deadline looms for foreign countries to select their official submission for next year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, France (always a titan with the Academy with a historic 35 previous nominations and 9 wins in the category) has thrown a curveball, selecting Saint Laurent, director Bertrand Bonello’s biopic of legendary fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent. Sony Pictures Classics picked up Saint Laurent following its premiere at Cannes and the film will make its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival next week. No plans for a U.S. release have been made public as of yet.
There was speculation that France would submit the controversial but highly acclaimed coming-of-age lesbian romance Blue is the Warmest Color, since that 2013 title was released in its native country outside Academy release date guidelines, meaning it was eligible this go-round. However, the French film committee may have opted for a safer tactic by going with Saint Laurent, which premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The film stars Gaspard Ulliel (Hannibal Rising) as Laurent and Jérémie Renier (In Bruges) as the designer’s life-long partner Pierre Bergé, focusing on Laurent’s life from 1965-1976. Louis Garrel (The Dreamers) and Leá Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Color) co-star. Bonnello wrote the screenplay with Thomas Bidegain (Rust and Bone.) Coincidentally, there was another film on the same subject that The Weinstein Company released this past summer called Yves Saint Laurent.
It’s a somewhat surprising entry considering the high profile of Blue is the Warmest Color (which won the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival), which opened in North American theaters last fall and earned a respectable $2.1 million. It was widely expected that the film would coast to a nomination based on it being a known quantity. A strong case could also have been made for Me, Myself and Mum, another movie that opened in France last year outside the Academy eligibility date. That comedy, directed, written, and starring Guillaume Gallienne (ironically, the star of Yves Saint Laurent) won five prizes including Best Film at the 2013 Cesar Awards (France’s homeland equivalent to the Oscars).
Other selected titles in this year’s Oscar race include Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (Canada), Two Days, One Night (Belgium) from the Dardenne Bros., and Ida (Poland) from director Pawel Pawlikowski. The deadline for official selections is September 30th.