Pedro Almodovar Honored by Star-Studded Crowd at MoMa Film Benefit

Pedro Almodovar, Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld - MoMa - H 2011
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The Museum of Modern Art's fourth annual event drew such stars as Sarah Jessica Parker and Drew Barrymore and included video greetings from Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.

NEW YORK -- Writer-director Pedro Almodovar was honored here Tuesday night at the fourth annual MoMA Film Benefit in a star-studded event that included video messages from friends Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas.

The crowd -- which included Karl Lagerfeld, whose Chanel underwrote the evening; Anna Wintour; Sarah Jessica Parker; Drew Barrymore; and Emma Stone -- gave the filmmaker a heartfelt standing ovation at MoMA's Titus Theater following a cocktail reception at the museum. 

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Cruz in her video message told Almodovar: "You are one of the funniest people in the world for sure." She also said she was "hoping that we share many, many more" special moments together.

Banderas lauded Almodovar for walking in the "difficult, sometimes painful, always exciting territories of artistic creation." He added: "You broke all the laws of cinematic gravity."

Photographer/artist Bruce Weber, accompanied by a guitar player, shared with the audience a heartfelt and much-applauded song he called "Pedro, I'm glad There Is You." He quipped that he also saw it as his audition for Almodovar.

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After a video tribute with highlights from his films, Almodovar took to the stage.

After apologizing for what he called his "poor English" and admitting to being really emotional, he said to much applause: "I'm so moved that I don't know what to say."

He then recalled how a long time ago, the MoMa showed one of his films for the first time, which he said helped him get started in the U.S. "That was the beginning of almost everything," he said.

Almodovar also said that cinema was particularly personal and important to him as he grew up in the time of the Spanish dictatorship. "It was too dark and too heavy," and he "tried to recover the bright colors of the first movie I saw as a child," he told the crowd.

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MoMa president Marie-Josee Kravis told Almodovar: "I'm a huge fan." She said she always found "this love of spectacle," his "irreverent humor" and the "fusion of grief and joy" in his films appealing.

Thanking Lagerfeld, she lauded the fashion industry icon for his passion and said he devours any form of art or cultural contribution with joy. "The only thing he doesn't devour is food," she quipped.

The MoMa event raises funds to ensure that works of cinema continue to join the museum's collection.  

Chief curator Raj Roy said that for the second year in a row, MoMa crossed the million-dollar mark.

Previous film benefit honorees were Baz Luhrmann (2008), Tim Burton (2009) and Kathryn Bigelow (2010).