By ELSA KESLASSY
PARIS -- "Seraphine," a modestly budgeted biopic of Gallic painter Seraphine de Senlis, took top honors at France's 34rd Cesar Awards Friday, taking seven nods including film, original screenplay and actress for Yolande Moreau.
Moreau previously won two Cesars for "When the Sea Rises," which she toplined and co-directed with Gilles Porte in 2004.
She is currently filming the horror pic "The Pack" and will appear in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "Micmacs a tire-larigot," set for an Oct. bow in Gaul.
"I would like to thank Seraphine, who disappeared during the 1930s depression but apparently is getting her luck back from this crisis," said thesp-turned-helmer Martin Provost.
Another strong contender in the film category was the biopic about French bank robber Jacques Mesrine, "Public Enemy Number One," which had garnered a record 10 noms. The pic ended up with three Cesars, including director for Jean-Francois Richet and actor for Vincent Cassel.
Bafta foreign-film winner "I've Loved You So Long" garnered nods for first film for helmer Philippe Claudel and supporting actress Elsa Zylberstein.
Jean-Paul Roussillon won supporting actor laurels for his turn as a family patriarch in Arnaud Desplechin's "A Christmas Tale."
Known for playing rebellious, tough guys, Cassel was previously nommed for two Cesars for Jacques Audiard's "Read My Lips" and "Hate."
Palme d'Or winner and Oscar foreign-language film nominee "The Class" nabbed adapted screenplay.
Thesp Sean Penn was in attendance to present the best pic nod and rep "Into the Wild" in the foreign-film category, but the pic lost to "Waltz With Bashir."
Famed French producer Claude Berri, who died in January, was honored during the ceremony, drawing a standing ovation.
Another highlight of the ceremony was Dustin Hoffman accepting the lifetime achievement award from "Last Chance Harvey" castmate and close friend, Emma Thompson.
"One day, as I was in therapy and I said, 'Jesus, the only time I ever fell centered in my life is when I'm playing someone else,'" said Hoffman, in tears. "There is a corpse inside of us all, and that corpse represents the person we're not; and acting allows me to know that person better."
Cesars awards went to:
"Seraphine," Martin Provost
Yolande Moreau, "Seraphine"
Vincent Cassel, "Public Enemy Number One"
Jean-Francois Richet, "Public Enemy Number One"
Martin Provost, "Seraphine"
Laurent Cantet, Francois Begaudeau, Robin Campillo, "The Class"
"I've Loved You So Long," Philippe Claudel
Elsa Zilberstein, " I've Loved You So Long"
Jean-Paul Roussillon, "A Christmas Tale"
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE, ACTRESS
Deborah Francois, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE, ACTOR
Marc-Andre Grondin, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
Michael Galasso, "Seraphine"
Laurent Brunet, "Seraphine"
Madeline Fontaine, "Seraphine"
Sophie Reine, "The First Day of the Rest of Your Life"
Ari Folman, "Waltz With Bashir"
"The Beaches of Agnes," Agnes Varda