When Claudia Cardinale was first making a name for herself in European cinema, starring in now-legendary classics by Federico Fellini, Sergio Leone and Luchino Visconti, the UAE wasn’t yet the UAE and it’s fair to say the idea of an international film festival in Abu Dhabi was probably quite far removed. Much has changed since then and Cardinale, now 74 but about as energetic as a teenager, was in town over the weekend to collect a Lifetime Achievement Award, recognition for a career that has stubbornly refused to slow down since it began some 55 years ago.
“Normally at my age you don’t work,” she laughs. But Cardinale is still doing so, and the Abu Dhabi Film Festival screened her latest offering, Gebo and the Shadow, which saw her work with a filmmaker who makes her seem positively youthful by comparison, the 103-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira.
“We did the movie in just 25 days, it was like theatre,” she says, adding that de Oliveira, despite his age, shares her child-like energy. “Each day before coming on set he was off doing sport.”
Alongside Gebo and the Shadow, Cardinale is appearing in four other films due to come out soon, including the Emma Thompson-scripted Effie. But she is sceptical of how the industry has changed in the half-century she has been acting.
“Before, cinema was an adventure. Now, it’s a business,” she says. “But for me, the money isn’t important. Normally you live only one life. But with cinema, you live many. You can go from a princess to a prostitute when in front of the camera.”