Italian actress Valentina Cortese was awarded France’s highest honour in recognition of her contribution to the arts, the Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, during a ceremony on Monday.
The award ceremony took place in Milan’s French Institute, and was preceded by the projection of photographs and film clips by by Antonio Zanoletti, illustrating her long and impressive career. From her extensive stage work, especially with the Piccolo Teatro’s Giorgio Strehler, through important film collaborations in Hollywood, Italy (especially Federico Fellini’s Juliet of the Spirits) and France, with her stellar performance in François Truffaut’s Day for Night, which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination in 1975.
The Cultural Advisor to the French Embassy, and director of the French Institute, Eric Tallon, spoke in French and Italian about the motivation for the award, after which the 90-year-old actress replied in French, breaking into tears as she thanked the French people for the honour.
Antonio Zanoletti, together with Elisabetta Invernici, have produced a magnificent volume to mark Valentina Cortese’s 90th birthday, Valentina Cortese — 100 Ritratti (100 Portraits) which is in English and Italian.