Glittering in flowing black sequins, two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, the second-youngest recipient of Film at Lincoln Center’s coveted 47th Chaplin Award, was ushered to her seat at Alice Tully Hall to resounding applause.
As Film at Lincoln Center president Daniel H. Stern intoned the usual litany of praise and tribute to “one of the most versatile and talented actresses working today,” he eventually had to inform the crowd that the two starry presenters of the night, “Carol” filmmaker Todd Haynes (“ooooh,” groaned the audience) and “Nightmare Alley” star Bradley Cooper (“ughh,” they moaned), couldn’t make the event due to a direct COVID hit, in Haynes’ case. Cooper was under the weather, he said. (A Searchlight source said Cooper’s daughter had COVID.)
But a voice pierced the darkness. “I’m here!,” cried Blanchett. The audience cheered.
Over the course of the night, between videos of former winners (including Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Sidney Poitier, Alfred Hitchcock, James Stewart, Robert Altman, and Meryl Streep) and Blanchett stans like fellow-Aussie Hugh Jackman, Martin Scorsese (“The Aviator”), and Richard Linklater (“Where’d You Go, Bernadette?”) who explained how Blanchett was a good ol’ Texas name, Blanchett and others had fun throwing a bit of shade on Cooper.
And later, when the co-deputy editor of Film Comment, Devika Girish, gracefully took over the career interview from Haynes, Blanchett responded charmingly to the younger woman’s queries about running the gamut of characters from Queen Elizabeth and Katharine Hepburn to a Middle Earth elf and Norse villain and working for directors Peter Jackson, Gillian Armstrong, Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh, and David Fincher.
Like many actresses, it turns out that Blanchett is motivated by a combination of confidence, fear, and going with the flow. And if she’d had another career, she might have studied dance with Pina Bausch.
Finally, Blanchett loves cinema. “We have had a collective experience over the last two years to a greater or lesser degree that has been deeply, profoundly confronting,” she said, “and dealing with our situation through allegory and metaphor, which is what film is. It has been providing us with a collective catharsis. Our cinema is ripe for an enormous lift, because we want to be together in a room, we want to be experiencing something in the dark together with strangers and with friends, and being united by something that we’re seeing together.”
After a rough weekend, FIlm at Lincoln Center’s Lesli Klainberg and Eugene Hernandez were relieved that the event went smoothly after scrambling to pull it together. At the end of the night, Haynes’ producer Christine Vachon took on the presenting role. And at the elegant sponsor and patron black-tie dinner at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theatre, Vachon explained how Haynes arrived from Portland, Oregon not feeling at all well. She got him tested, and sure enough, he was positive.
As for Blanchett, these days she just rolls with the punches, she told me, as she looks forward to getting back to work in London on Alfonso Cuaron’s Apple TV+ mini-series “Disclaimer,” about television documentary journalist Catherine Ravenscroft, in which she and Sacha Baron Cohen play the parents of Kodi Smit-McPhee. There’s much more to come.