By William Wolf


The epitome of glamour and accomplishment, Catherine Deneuve walked on stage to accept the Charley Chaplin Award from director Martin Scorsese at the 39th such gala held by the Film Society of Lincoln Center (April 2, 2012) at Alice Tully Hall. A cascade of film clips shown at the start of the event surveyed the cinema luminaries who have received this honor, starting in 1972 with Chaplin upon his return to America after his two-decade absence as a result of McCarthy era persecution.

Deneuve looked fabulous, hard to square with my memory of having interviewed her on her trip to New York early in her career. She was perfectly charming then, but looked like an unassuming and rather shy girl from the country. Watching her subsequent dynamic career and the stunning glamour image acquired along the way has offered special pleasure. The clips shown from her various films during the evening spoke loudest in telling the story of her achievements that earned her this prestigious award.

We watched her in snippets from “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” “Belle de jour,” “Repulsion,” “Le Savage,” “The Hunger,” “The Last Metro,” “Hustle,” “Indochine,” “8 Women,” “A Christmas Tale” “Potiche” and more, and seeing her on screen in various roles emphasized her range and the authenticity she has brought to each character.

As is customary at these galas, notables were on hand to pay tribute to the honoree. Susan Sarandon praised her not only for her work in cinema but for her principled stand on issues of the times and “not so much as blinking in the face of controversy.” Sarandon injected humor, pointing out in a reference to a steamy film (“The Hunger”) they made together that she was the only American actress to have slept with Deneuve.

The person who one might say stole the show was Chiara Mastroianni, Deneuve’s daughter with Marcello Mastroianni and an actress in her own right. Striking looking, she particularly resembles her father, and in her comments, she exhibited a keen sense of fun. But she also expressed pride in her mother’s stands on various issues, in particular her joining 342 other noted women who signed a statement in 1971 admitting to having broken French law by having an abortion and demanding the legal right to have one, a right subsequently granted by French lawmakers.

Then she elicited a huge laugh from the crowd by assuming that Rick Santorum would not like her mother.

After being lauded by Scorsese and receiving the award statue, which she placed on a stand next to her, Deneuve thanked the Film Society of Lincoln Center for the honor, especially meaningful to her, she said, as an American award in view of the fact that most of the films she has made have been French. She basked in the applause and the standing ovation before going off-stage along with the entourage of those who had spoken in her honor and witnessed the presentation, including noted French director François Ozon.

Some of these galas have been over-long with speeches piled on and on. Not this enjoyable one. After a cocktail reception in Alice Tully Hall, the ceremony began at 7:20 p.m., was succinctly effective and by about 8:40 p.m. Deneuve had been memorably installed among the pantheon of achievers who were so honored, including, in addition to Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Alfred Hitchcock, Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman, George Cukor, Bob Hope, John Huston, Barbara Stanwyck, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Claudette Colbert, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guiness, Yves Montand, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Robert Altman, Shirley MacLaine, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Martin Scorsese, Mike Nichols, Al Pacino, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola, Susan Sarandon, Michael Caine, Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas and Sidney Poitier.


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