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Thoughtful thriller dominates French film awards

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PARIS, Feb 26 (Reuters) Jacques Audiard's ''De battre mon coeur s'est arrete'' (The Beat That My Heart Skipped) swept eight Cesars, France's top film awards, including best film and best director.

The thoughtful thriller saw off challengers such as Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke's French-language thriller ''Cache'' (Hidden) and ''Joyeux Noel'' (Merry Christmas), about an ad hoc World War One Christmas truce between German and French troops.

''This is becoming embarrassing,'' Audiard said as he accepted the best film award, completing a sweep of almost half the 19 awards at a glittering televised ceremony in Paris.

The film tells the tale of a young swindler who wants to escape his fate by becoming a concert pianist, and finds redemption in his music.

A remake of US director James Toback's 1978 film ''Fingers'', it has won a string of awards including being chosen best film of 2005 by the French Critics' Union and best non-English-language film at the British Academy Film Awards.

It also received Cesars for best female newcomer, best editing and best adaptation.

The film has not been nominated for best foreign language film at this year's U.S. Academy Awards. Christian Caron's ''Joyeux Noel'' is, however, among the contenders for that Oscar.

Nathalie Baye won the best actress award for her portrayal of an alcoholic detective in Xavier Beauvois' ''Le petit lieutenant'' (The Young Lieutenant).

Michel Bouquet, 80, was voted best actor for his portrayal of Francois Mitterrand in ''Le promeneur du Champ de Mars'' (The Last Mitterrand) which looks at the final years of the late French president.

Clint Eastwood's ''Million Dollar Baby'' was voted best foreign film and British actor Hugh Grant won an award in recognition of his cinema career.

Reuters SK VP0615

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