Last night at Lincoln Center with Catherine Deneuve, (left to right) François Ozon, Martin Scorsese, Susan Sarandon, James Gray, Chiara Mastroiannni and Film Society executive director Rose Kuo. Photo by Godlis.

A French cinephile was celebrated at Lincoln Center last night as the Film Society honored Catherine Deneuve for a career in the movies that spans five decades. In that time, she's worked with some many of cinema's greats: Truffaut, Buñuel, Téchiné, Polanski, Demy, and others. The iconic actress continues to collaborate with a new generation of directors, including Desplechin, Ozon, and Honoré.

Deneuve has appeared in more than 100 films since gaining wide acclaim for Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) in 1964 and Roamn Polanski's Repulsion in 1965. Deneuve's older sister, Francois Dorléac – with whom she appeared in The Young Girls of Rochefort (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort) in 1967 – died in a tragic car accident.

“Not only does she love to act,” emphasized her daughter Chiara Mastroinanni, “But she likes movies a lot.” Deneuve has made her mark on the movies both on screen and off. She even designed the Salon atop the 105 year-old Cinéma du Panthéon near her home in Paris.

The 39th Chaplin Award Gala was held to support the Film Society and its programming. The annual event raises more than one million dollars to benefit the organization. Forty years ago tomorrow, the Film Society fundraiser welcomed Charlie Chaplin back to America and the Gala was later named in his honor. Chaplin's grand daughter Kiera Chaplin was at Lincoln Center last night to mark the occasion.

“For me, Catherine Deneuve is French cinema. They are one in the same,” proclaimed Martin Scorsese last night onstage at Alice Tully Hall before presenting the Chaplin Award trophy to the French actress. The previous Chaplin Award recipient said, “She was made for cinema and cinema seems to be made for her.”

Scorsese and others spoke of Deneuve's bold, adventurous spirit on screen. She chooses challenging, unexpected roles – for example, consider her turn as a bisexual vampire in the 1983 movie The Hunger.  Introducing the sensual scene from the film last night, her co-star in that film Susan Sarandon quipped, “I am probably the only presenter who has actually slept with Catherine Deneuve!”

Her daughter added that her boldness can be seen in both her personal life as well. “She is absolutely fearless on the screen and off,” explained Chiara Mastroianni. Reflecting on her mom's  outspoken politics — she's demonstrated publicly against the death penalty and in support of pro-choice causes – Mastroianni noted, “Rick Santorum is probably not an admirer.” The political punch at the candidate for a U.S. presidential nomination drew laughter and cheers among last night's large crowd at Lincoln Center.

Filmmakers James Gray and François Ozon were among the others who saluted Deneuve on stage last night. Ozon, who directed the actress in the musical 8 Women and the recent Potiche, said it was a bit odd to be speaking about his friend in a foreign langauge.

“Maybe the English will allow me to say things I don't dare to say to you in French, Catherine,” Ozon began. “What is your secret? Do you have a secret? Should I share your secret?” he teased, “I think your secret is you keep your secret.”

“You are always there and, at the same time, someplace else,” Ozon continued and then, smiling, recalled a quote from Potiche co-star Gerard Depardieu who said, “Catherine Deneuve is the man I've always wanted to be.”

Twisting the joke, Ozon said sincerely, “You are the woman I would love to be.”

After the program, about 300 guests made their way across the plaza to sit down for a Lincoln Center dinner in Denueve's honor. Friends and fans made their way to the center table where she sat with her daughter Chiara, Martin Scorsese and others. Guests greeted the star and raised a glass in her honor.

Mother and Daughter: Catherine Deneuve with Chiara Mastroianni. Photo by Godlis.