Philippe Falardeau’s soulful Monsieur Lazhar walked away the big winner at Thursday night’s Genie Awards, scooping up six prizes – including best picture -- and inching just ahead of David Cronenberg’s five-time trophy winner, A Dangerous Method.
The Oscar-nominated Monsieur Lazhar (which lost the Academy Award for best foreign-language film to Iran’s A Separation last month) also won for best direction, best editing and best lead actor for Mohamed Fellag, who plays an Algerian immigrant and grieving elementary-school teacher in Montreal.
Eleven-year-old Sophie Nélisse, who is one of Fellag’s precocious students, won best supporting actress, beating out seasoned pros such as Hélène Florent of Café de Flore, Julie LeBreton in Starbuck, Charlotte Sullivan in Edwin Boyd: Citizen Gangster and Roxana Condurache in The Whistleblower.
Going into the evening, Jean-Marc Vallée’s wrenching drama Café de Flore, starring Johnny Depp’s partner Vanessa Paradis as a young mother devoted to her Down syndrome son, led the pack with 13 nominations, ahead of A Dangerous Method, which had 11. Vallée’s risky, time-shifting film ended up with three Genies, including best actress for Paradis.
Cronenberg’s psychoanalytical thriller, which explores the history of sex through the minds of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), took home Genies for best art direction, best musical score (for long-time Cronenberg collaborator Howard Shore), and best supporting actor, a prize picked up personally by Mortensen, who walked the red carpet in Toronto with his director friend, who also cast the U.S. actor in Eastern Promises and A History of Violence.
Falardeau’s script – based on the one-character play Bashir Lazhar by Évelyne de la Chenelière – also won best adapted screenplay, while Ken Scott’s crowd-pleasing Starbuck nabbed best original screenplay honours.
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