LYON, France — An echo of his prolific career, colorful personality and enduring passion for movies, Martin Scorsese was celebrated by an impressive delegation of French and international film figures on Friday night in Lyon, where he received the Lumiere tribute.
The ceremony was emceed by Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director and general delegate of both Cannes and Lyon Lumiere film festivals. Fremaux, who created the festival seven years ago with vet French helmer Bertrand Tavernier to showcase heritage films, said the pair had dreamt of honoring Scorsese even since the festival was launched.
“This festival was created to celebrate the history of cinema, as well as passion and knowledge and Martin Scorsese embodies all these things in an absolute way,” Fremaux told Variety before the fest kicked off. Previous Lumiere tributes were awarded to Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar and Clint Eastwood.
Like a rock star, Scorsese walked into the jam-packed 3000-seat congress to the beats of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” He was welcomed by a rowdy standing ovation and a crowd that included Salma Hayek and husband Francois Henry-Pinault, Kering CEO, Cannes film festival president Pierre Lescure, directors Abbas Kiarostami (“Like Someone in Love”), Max von Sydow (“Shutter Island”), Matteo Garrone (“The Tale of Tales”), Elia Suleiman (“The Time That Remains”), Pablo Trapero (“The Clan”), Michel Franco (“Chronic”), Gaspard Noe (“Love”), Michel Hazavicius (“The Search”), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“The Young and Prodigious Spivet”), Alice Rohrwacher (“The Wonders”), MK2’s Nathanael Karmitz, producer Charles Gillibert, Hengameh Pahani, Pierre Rissient, Amazon Studios’ Scott Foundas, Geraldine Chaplin, Emilie Mortimer, Elsa Zilberstein, Virginie Efira, Jane Birkin and Francois Cluzet.
The ceremony was punctuated by many surprises, including an appearance by Jane Birkin, who sung “As Time Goes By,” and Kiarostami, who showed a highly experimental short dedicated to Scorsese. Robert De Niro, who was not able to attend because he’s currently shooting “The Wizard of Lies,” recorded a short video to congratulate his longtime friend. Fremaux also presented a compilation of comedic silent movie scenes before offering them in 35 millimeters to Scorsese. His guests ended up on stage singing “New York, New York.”
The tribute also included a montage of clips from all of Scorsese’s movies — from his iconic docu “Italianamerican” featuring his parents, to “Mean Streets,” “Raging Bull,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “Casino,” “The Departed” and “The Wolf Of Wall Street.”
Although Tavernier wasn’t there as he’s still recovering from a surgery, he was present in spirit and in speeches.
“When I take a look at everything you’ve undertaken or created, I feel a sort of dizziness. How did you manage to impose such a creative frenzy? You’ve invented 36-hour days and 90-minute hours without ever sleeping,” wrote Tavernier in his letter to Scorsese which was read by Fremaux on stage.
“I profoundly thank you, Marty, for the joy that you spark by sharing this love of cinema; a ‘cinéphile’ that is joyful and without a clan or chapel, a ‘cinephile’ who shares. Today, filmmakers like you and Tarantino, Alexander Payne and Joe Dante do a lot to reinstate this love of films which is generous, vibrant, never outdated, and defies renouncement and disillusioned cynicism,” said Tavernier.
On top of being offered a strip of 35mm film from “Goodfellas,” frenzied audiences also got a chance to admire Scorsese’s acting chops in Tavernier’s 1986 movie “Round Midnight,” in which he had a memorable scene with Dexter Gordon and Francois Cluzet.
Scorsese, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Helen Morris, and daughter, Francesca, was visibly moved by the tribute and even shed tears. “I don’t know if I’m going to survive this. (…) I have to say this is really very moving to be here tonight and to see this tribute and to experience it.”
“Younger audiences today know the world only through images and they are in desperate need of guidance,” said Scorsese.
Alluding to the the documentary Tavernier is now making about French cinema, Scorsese said directors like Tavernier can play a vital role and “enlighten (these young people) in a way that’s more powerful than a six-second clip shot with a smartphone.”
The iconic filmmaker also spoke about his World Cinema Foundation, which restores heritage films from across the globe. “My passion for restoring and preserving films came out of an anger that these things were just falling away. I had such a need to share this excitement for movies with others,” said Scorsese.
“There wasn’t a habit of reading in my house so it’s through films that I discovered music, poetry, art and all sorts of storytelling. And it’s through movies that I discovered the world,” said Scorsese.
Scorsese, who was in Paris earlier this week for the inauguration of his exhibit/retrospective at the Cinematheque, curated a selection of films in Lyon, notably Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” in 3D and Joseph Leo Mankiewicz’s “People will Talk.”
Fremaux wrapped the ceremony saying that greeting Scorsese at the festival was “like having John Huston, Howard Hawks and John Ford in the same room together.” The gala was followed by a screening of “Taxi Driver.”