The Artist sweeps board at London Film Critics' Circle awards
Silent film The Artist has swept the board at the London Film Critics' Circle awards, winning three awards.
The black-and-white picture won Film of the Year, Director of the Year and Actor of the Year at the ceremony, following on from its success at the Golden Globes.
The Actress of the Year award was tied between Anna Paquin for her performance in Kenneth Lonergan's drama Margaret and Meryl Streep for her portrayal of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
The latter film also saw Olivia Colman scooping The Moet & Chandon Award: British Actress of the Year for her performance.
Kenneth Branagh was awarded Supporting Actor of the Year award for his turn as Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn, while Michael Fassbender collected the British Actor of the Year award for his performances as Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method and as a sex addict in Shame.
Iranian drama A Separation also took home three awards. It won Foreign Language Film of the Year and also saw Sareh Bayat win Supporting Actress of the Year and Asghar Farhadi pick up best screenwriter.
The Attenborough Award: British Film of the Year went to We Need To Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay, while Young British Performer of the Year went to Craig Roberts for his role in comedy Submarine.
Andrew Haigh took home The Virgin Atlantic Award: Breakthrough British Film-maker for drama Weekend and Senna won best documentary.
Meanwhile, the Dilys Powell Award: Excellence in Film went to Nicolas Roeg.
Crime drama Drive and Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy had led the nominations for the awards, with six apiece. However the latter only took home The Sky 3D Award: Technical Achievement, although the two movies were named in third and fourth place respectively in the Critics' Circle Top 10 Films of 2011, led by The Artist.
The awards, held at the BFI Southbank in London, are voted for by 120 British film critics, broadcasters and writers.
London Film Critics' Circle chairman Jason Solomons said: "Judging from the quality of films and performances honoured tonight, it is clear that the critics - who see every film, not just those with awards campaigns behind them - have an increasingly influential voice in awards races.
"Our wide range of viewing has thrown up great surprises and championed small films, shining a light on new, exciting, challenging and thrilling work from around the world of film.
"Without the enthusiasm of critics, terrific films such as The Artist, A Separation and Margaret and amazing performances such as those by Olivia Colman and Michael Fassbender would not be receiving the wider, global attention occasions such as this can inspire.
"It was also a thrill to see director Nic Roeg honoured and witness the huge respect and admiration from film-makers and critics for this artist's incredible, still-groundbreaking body of work."
Jean Dujardin, who won the best actor prize for The Artist, beat competition from Gary Oldman, nominated for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Ryan Gosling, for Drive, George Clooney, for The Descendants, and Michael Fassbender, for Shame.
Michel Hazanavicius, director of The Artist, scooped the prize ahead of nominees including Nicolas Winding Refn for Drive.
The Artist star Dujardin admitted he had been take aback by the film's awards success.
"We were never prepared for this. It is very new so I am so proud, for the crew, for the film," he said. "It's a very new experience but I'm happy."
But the French actor, who stars as Hollywood film star George Valentin in the black-and-white silent film, does not agree with the campaign to get his dog co-star Uggie an award nomination.
The Jack Russell plays Valentin's sidekick in the film, and earlier this week attended the Golden Globes wearing a bow tie, and showed off his tricks on stage.
But Dujardin said: "It's just a dog!
"Uggie and George Valentin, are the same character. Uggie is me and George Valentine is Uggie. So they're the same silhouette."
The Artist's director Michel Hazanavicius agreed.
He said: "He's a dog, not an actor. He doesn't care about awards.
"And I would feel really uncomfortable if he was nominated in an actor category, because that means that he would take room from another actor, and that would not be fair.
"He doesn't work as an actor, he works as a dog. He wants sausages, not awards."