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Of course, these things are arranged too far in advance -- July last year, to be exact -- for the exchange to be quite as neat as it sounds, but the timing of this announcement underlines it anyway: in the same week that Harvey Weinstein won France its first Best Picture Oscar, the French in turn have honored the super-producer with its highest form of official recognition, the Légion d’Honneur.
Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Légion is approximately equivalent to the Queen's Honours in Britain, noting outstanding individual contributions to French society and culture -- previous recipients in the film world range from Ennio Morricone to Kristin Scott Thomas to Clint Eastwood, alongside any number of homegrown talents. Weinstein was selected for the honor by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, as a measure of gratitude "to someone who has always shown great friendship towards our country and our cinema which you have enabled so many Americans to discover."
("The Artist," of course, wasn't the only one of this year's Best Picture nominees in which Sarkozy had a rooting interest: his wife, Carla Bruni, is one of the SAG-winning stars of "Midnight in Paris." Woody Allen's name, of course, doesn't appear on the list of former Légion recipients; I can't imagine the director, so beloved in France, hasn't been asked before.)
"The Artist" aside, Weinstein has been good to the French film industry over the years, having shepherded such crossover successes as "Amélie" and the "Three Colors" trilogy onto US screens. (He's also, incidentally, the man responsible for netting Juliette Binoche an Academy Award.) It's an appropriate form of recognition, albeit in a week where Weinstein hardly needs another vote of thanks.
Weinstein's formal letter of notification below:
LETTER TO HARVEY WEINSTEIN FROM PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY
July 22, 2011
Dear Mr. Weinstein,
I have great pleasure of informing you that I have signed a decree which nominates you to the order of the Legion D’Honneur. This prestigious distinction, which I wanted to come from my personal allocation, is a testimony of the admiration of millions of French citizens for the exceptional quality of the films that you have produced. It also expresses our gratitude to someone who has always shown great friendship towards our country and our cinema, which you have enabled so many Americans to discover.
I would like to express my personal congratulations for the well-deserved distinction which France has bestowed on you.
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