Published on April 7th, 2012 | by Daniel Guzmán0
The Film Society of Lincoln Center celebrated its thirty-ninth annual Chaplin Award Gala Monday night with a tribute to the dazzling French actress Catherine Deneuve. A handful of other cinema notables were present to honor the cinema goddess, including James Gray, Susan Sarandon, François Ozon, and Martin Scorsese.
Conceived in 1971 by Martin E. Segal, then President and CEO of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the inaugural gala served as a means to lure the elusive Charlie Chaplin back to the United States after twenty years in exile. Since the success of the first event, the Film Society has honored many other cinema legends, including Federico Fellini, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Meryl Streep, and Al Pacino (as well as two of the night’s presenters―Sarandon and Scorsese). In time, the Film Society decided to name the award in honor of the screen icon that inspired it all―and so, the “Chaplin Award” was born.
The cocktail hour was crowded with cinephiles in stunning attire. Throughout the atrium of Alice Tully Hall, the conversations centered on highlights of the Gallic beauty’s career, from her early roles in “Repulsion” and “Belle de jour,” to her confident, expressive turns in “The Last Metro” and “The Hunger,” to her mature, latter-day achievements in “8 Women” and “Dancer in the Dark.” The presentation itself was equal parts glamor and geekiness, with speakers oscillating between commenting on Madame Deneuve’s unforgettable performances and reflecting on their personal Deneuve-fueled crushes. Director James Gray set the tone with his confession that seeing the actress backstage had left him feeling not unlike Dustin Hoffman’s intimidated, love-struck character in “The Graduate” after encountering Mrs. Robinson.
Other presenters weighed in on the actress’s numerous achievements. High moments included Susan Sarandon reflecting on her on-screen (and off-screen) soirées with the blonde idol; daughter Chiara Mastroianni joking that her greatest childhood memory came not from a film shoot, but from when her mom returned home from a trip to New York with a photo of herself and Miss Piggy; and François Ozon stating that she is “the woman I would love to be” (a riff on what Gérard Depardieu once said about his co-star: “Catherine Deneuve is the man I’ve always wanted to be.”).
The speeches were interspersed with clips from Deneuve’s extensive body of work, reminding viewers of the impressiveness of the actress’s career. It’s only fitting, then, that the person to present Ms. Deneuve with the Chaplin Award was none other than Mr. Cinema himself, Martin Scorsese, who declared that “for me, Catherine Deneuve is French Cinema.” Coming from a director like him, that’s like receiving two awards in one night.
Ms. Deneuve was modest (and brief) in her acceptance speech, giving credit to the many daring directors she’s worked with over the years, noting that they represent the type of cinema that she personally enjoys to watch. Dressed in a lovely blue dress, the sixty-eight-year-old star exited the stage to a standing ovation, a reminder that, to borrow from one of her most loved films, she is still a true “belle de jour.”