France and Iran share film spoils at London film awards
French film The Artist and Iranian film A Separation have triumphed at the London Critics Circle awards.
Silent movie, and Oscar front-runner, The Artist won film of the year; Michel Hazanavicius won best director and Jean Dujardin was named best actor.
A Separation, which follows a marital conflict in Tehran, won best foreign film, best screenwriter and best supporting actress for Sareh Beyat.
We Need To Talk About Kevin won British film of the year.
In a surprise move, Meryl Streep shared the best actress award with Anna Paquin, for her role in the little-seen film Margaret. Neither actress was present at the awards.
However, both The Artist's Dujardin and Hazanavicius were at the BFI Southbank event in London.
When asked for the reason why he thought the movie had been so successful, Hazanavicius said: "Maybe because it's a simple love story. It's universal. And there's a cute dog. People love cute dogs."
The black-and-white film, a tribute to Hollywood's silent era, won three Golden Globes earlier this week.
It is also nominated for 12 Baftas, and is expected to be among the Oscar front-runners when nominations are announced next week.
Kenneth Branagh collected the supporting actor of the year award, for his role as Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn.
He revealed that as a teenager he had sent Olivier a letter asking for acting advice.
"His advice was to have a bash and hope for the best , which was a simple and very effective way of saying you've just got to do it."
Branagh praised co-star Michelle Williams' portrayal of Marilyn Monroe.
"She was eerily and spookily like Marilyn," he said. "It really did feel as if I was playing opposite Marilyn Monroe, not Michelle Williams - that's how spooky.
"She seemed to be possessed by Marilyn, but did it while retaining a sense of humour."
Michael Fassbender picked up the British actor of the year award for his performances as a sex addict in Shame and Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method.
Fassbender praised Shame director Steve McQueen, with whom he made Hunger in 2008: "He's very brave and very open and very honest. Steve changed my life and I'm forever indebted."
Olivia Colman was named British actress of the year for her performances in The Iron Lady and Tyrannosaur.
Picking up the British film award for We Need to Talk About Kevin, director Lynne Ramsay said: "It's quite a dark film, so I'm really proud of the fact that a film as challenging as Kevin is getting an audience."
Asif Kapadia won best documentary for Senna, while Andrew Haigh was named breakthrough British film-maker for Weekend.
"I used to work here in the cinema as an usher about 15 years ago, so it's quite good to be on the stage winning an award," he told the BBC.
Craig Roberts took home the best young British performer trophy for his lead role in Submarine and Maria Djurkovic won the technical achievement for her production design in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
It was Tinker Tailor's only award of the night, having shared six nominations apiece with stylish thriller Drive.
Don't Look Now director Nicolas Roeg collected The Dilys Powell Award for excellence in film, from actor Donald Sutherland.
Drive's Carey Mulligan and War Horse actor Jeremy Irvine also attended the event.