The fourth edition of the Palm Springs Intl. Film Festival honored Italian movie star Marcello Mastroianni with its first Distinguished International Filmmaker Award at the fest-closing gala Saturday night.

Drenching rain did not deter fans from filling to capacity the 750-seat Plaza Theater for a program consisting of clips from Mastroianni’s films, an interview and Q&A sesh, a showing of “A Special Day” (1977) and a reception.

Festival director Darryl Macdonald introduced Mastroianni as “a man who has brought joy to countless millions of moviegoers for four decades.”

Greeted with the first of three standing ovations, the fashionably dressed honoree strolled down the aisle, seating himself unceremoniously on the stairs of the stage. Macdonald then read a touching telegram from Sophia Loren, Mastroianni’s frequent leading lady and friend, congratulating him on “a most worthy” award.

A half-hour presentation of clips, which were not particularly well selected, included entire scenes rather than snippets from five films: “La Dolce Vita” ( 1960), “Macaroni” (1985), “Dark Eyes” (1987), “Allonsanfan” (1974) and “La Nuit de Varrennes” (1982).

While clips did not capture the immense diversity of Mastroianni, one of the few Italian actors to achieve international fame and the only foreign actor to be nominated for three Oscars, they did give a flavor of his talent.

The 68-year-old actor was interviewed by Len Klady, a last-moment replacement for L.A. Times’ ailing Charles Champlin.

Mastroianni spoke in broken English, aided when necessary by an onstage interpreter. With his natural warmth and great charm, the actor managed to overcome the trappings of a low-key, lackluster gala that was not very well organized.

Asked to comment on being “the most famous male sex symbol in the world,” the actor was somewhat embarrassed–and surprised. “What are you talking about,” he said, “I was a victim of Sophia Loren, I was impotent in Fellini’s films, I was gay in ‘A Special Day,’ and I even played a pregnant man!”

The star, who claims to his credit more than 135 films and is currently seen in comedy “Used People,” singled out Federico Fellini as his favorite filmmaker. But he added, “Being directed by Fellini is not work. It’s like going to Disneyland. It’s laughing all the time–the opposite of what is considered professional.”

Mastroianni also related a recurrent dream in which he is asked by a young girl to give his career back. “I don’t have it,” he tells her mischievously. “I’ve spent it all.”

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