By William Wolf

SUSAN SARANDON TRIBUTE  Send This Review to a Friend

The Film Society of Lincoln Center placed Susan Sarandon in its pantheon of film icons with a gala tribute to her (April 5, 2003 at Avery Fisher Hall), and although she was honored for her long and varied screen career, running through the evening was enthusiastic recognition for her role as a citizen who speaks out on issues that concern her even if that means controversy. Courage was a measure along with talent.

When she finally took the stage after an evening of film clips and speeches by admirers, Sarandon noted wryly that she was glad "you didn't cancel." It was clearly a joke, as the Film Society could scarcely be more enthusiastic about honoring her for all that she represents on and off screen. Judging by the ovations, the auditorium was clearly filled with fans and supporters.

Speakers paying tribute included Harry Belafonte, John Turturro, Geena Davis, Paul Schrader, Tim Curry and Gore Vidal, as well as Sarandon's long-time companion Tim Robbins, who talked about her various attributes and also remarked that she "looks good when getting arrested." He spoke of her not only as a fine actor, but as a good mother and a reliable friend. Vidal drew applause with his line praising Sarandon as "an enemy of 19th Century Fox," obviously referring to TV talk show personalities who castigate dissenters.

Among the film clips, the climactic ones were scenes from "Thelma and Louise," including when the women, chased by police, decide in an instant bond representing their friendship and solidarity, to ride their car over a cliff rather than be captured. Sarandon made her stage entrance on the high of the audience reaction to those clips.

Other films represented by clips showing Sarandon's skill and range included, "Joe," "Pretty Baby," "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," "Atlantic City,' "Tempest," "Bull Durham," "Dead Man Walking," "The Client," "White Palace," "The Hunger," "Lorenzo's Oil," "Moonlight Mile," "The Witches of Eastwick," "Illuminata," "Twilight" and "The Banger Sisters." The sexiest sequences were from "The Hunger," involving Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in intimate, erotic talk ending with a kiss, and the seductive sparring between Sarandon and Robbins in "Bull Durham."

Sarandon was gracious in extending her appreciation, but maintained a naturalness that added to her appeal. She concluded by noting how great it was to sit through all of those clips of her work, and added with a tone of amusement as well as astonishment, "I'm impressed with myself." The audience loved the admission.

Others who have been lionized by the Film Society since the first such gala in 1972 include, to cite just a few, Charles Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini, Billy Wilder, Bob Hope, Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Clint Eastwood, Jane Fonda, Al Pacino, and Francis Ford Coppola.

The tribute was programmed and directed by Wendy Keys, produced by Tony Impavido and written by Joanna Ney.


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