In 1976, the 21th year of the foreign-language Oscar category, the five nominees were: Black and White in Color from the Ivory Coast, Cousin, Cousine from France, Jacob, the Liar from the Federal Republic of Germany, Nights and Days from Poland, and Seven Beauties from Italy.
“Seven Beauties,” directed by Lina Wertmueller, the first woman to be ever nominated for Best Director, and starring Giancarlo Giannini, was expected to win, but instead Jean-Jacques Annaud’s satire took the top prize in this endlessly controversial category.
Set during WWI, “Black and White in Color” tells the story of a group of French colonialists in West Central Africa.
Upon the outbreak of hostilities, a French trading post finds itself at odds with a formerly peaceful German post, for the only reason that their respective parent countries are at war.
It all begins when a concientious geologist, Hubert Fresnoy (Jacque Spiesser), writes to Paris, complaining about the dangers of Africa, asking for books and newspapers. When they arrive, he belatedly learns that France is at war with Germany, which poses a problem, as the colonists are friends with their German neighbors.
The xenophobic French traders attack the Germans, but fail. Their commander, Segeant Bosselet (Jean Carmet), has no experience of battle and they have no trained army. Carmet then conscripts the male natives, teaching them to speak French waer shoes, and even sing the patriotic “La Marseilleuse.”
The socialist Fresnoy is appointed in charge of the French contingent, discarding his former high ideals he was so proud of. In the end, the natives are honored with French names.
Shot on location on the Ivory Coast, “Black and White in Color” (originally titled in French “La Victoire en Chantant”), a biting satire on war, colonialism, and French patriotic pride, won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
This feature directing debut put on the map Annaud, who later helmed the popular adventures “Quest for Fire” (1979) and “The Bear” (1988), but also the disappointing literary adaptation “The Name of the Rose” (1986), followed by “The Lover” (1992) and “Seven Years in Tibet” (1997), starring Brad Pitt.
Running time: 100 Minutes.
Arthur Cohn Production
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Produced by Arthur Cohn
Released: September 22, 1976.
DVD: Jun 24, 2003
Jean Carmet as Sergeant Bosselet
Jacques Dufilho as Paul Rechampot
Catherine Rouvel as Marinette
Jacques Spiesser as Hubert Fresnoy
Dora Doll as Maryvonne
Maurice Barrier as Caprice
Claude Legros as Jacques Rechampot
Jacques Monnet as Pere Simon
Peter Berling as Pere Jean de la Croix
Marius Beugre Boignan as Barthelemy
Baye Macoumba Diop as Lamartine
Klaus Huebel as Haussmann
Aboutbaker Toure as Fidele
Marc Zuber as Major Anglais
Dieter Schidor as Kraft