Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, a fantastical feminist fable starring Emma Stone as a woman reanimated by a Frankenstein-style Victorian scientist (Willem Dafoe), has won the Golden Lion for best film at the 80th Venice International Film Festival.
The Hollywood Reporter critics praised the film — which includes a potentially career-defining performance by star Emma Stone as Isabella Baxter, the woman who struggles to understand the restrictive patriarchy of the world around her, and then proceeds to dismantle it.
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In his acceptance speech, Lanthimos said it took a long time to make the movie, his first since 2018 Oscar winner The Favourite, “until the world, until our industry, was ready for this film.” He singled out Stone for praise.
“Above all, this film is the central character of Isabella Baxter, this incredible creature, and she wouldn’t exist without Emma Stone, another incredible creature. This film is her, in front and behind the camera.”
Matteo Garrone won the best director award for his migration drama Me Captain, while newcomer Seydou Sarr won the best young actor award for his performance of a Senegalese teenager who leaves home on a quest to reach Europe in the film. The young actor broke down in tears before stammering out his thank yous to the Venice jury.
Cailee Spaeny won best actress for her portrayal of Priscilla Presley in Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, while Peter Sarsgaard won best actor for Michel Franco’s Memory, playing a man suffering from dementia. He used his speech to comment on the strikes.
“The issue that really struck a chord with me is A.I. I think we can all really agree that an actor is a person and that a writer is a person but apparently we can’t,” Sarsgaard noted, warning to not hand over stories about connections “to the machines and the 8 billionaires that own them.” He appealed to the “humanity” of the members of the AMPTP to ensure that “the future for their own children hums with the hive of humanity.”
Polish director Agnieszka Holland won a special jury award for Green Border, her harrowing drama on the plight of refugees caught on the border between Belarus and Poland. Members of Poland’s far-right government, including Polish Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro have attacked Holland online for the film, comparing it to “Nazi propaganda.” The director says she will sue for defamation if Ziobro does not formally apologize and retract his comments.
Alex Braverman took Venice’s best documentary prize for Thank You Very Much, which looks at the career of legendary comedian and prankster Andy Kaufman. Braverman paid tribute to the late Kaufman in his acceptance speech, saying the comedian was “as relevant now as he ever was.”
Love is a Gun, the directorial debut of Taiwanese actor Lee Hong-chi won the Lion of the Future prize for best first feature in Venice this year. The drama follows an ex-convict desperately trying to go straight. French director Alice Diop (Saint Omer) headed the jury that presented the award.
Explanation for Everything, a Hungarian drama from director Gabor Reisz, which looks at the culture wars in central Europe, took the top prize for best film in the Horizons sidebar. Swedish filmmaker Mika Gustafson took the best director honor in Horizons for her drama Paradise is Burning.
Mongolian actor Tergel Bold-Erdene won the best actor trophy for a film in the Horizons section for his role as a modern-day shaman in Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir’s City of Wind. Erenik Beqiri’s A Short Trip, an Albanian drama about a couple desperate to obtain French nationality, won the prize for Horizons best short film in the Horizons sidebar.
Micaela Ramazzotti’s Felicità, an Italian tale of a shattered family, won the Armani beauty audience award, voted on by Venice festival filmgoers.
Celine Daemen won the grand prize of the Venice Immersive section, which honors VR and interactive works, for Songs for a Passerby, which allows users to become puppeteers of their own bodies in a melancholic journey through a cityscape. Marion Burger and Ilan Cohen won the Venice Immersive achievement award for Emperor, an interactive and narrative experience in virtual reality, which invites the user to travel inside the brain of a father, suffering from aphasia. Dutch director Adriaan Lokman won a special jury prize for his short VR film Flow.
See the winners below.
Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos
Grand Jury Prize
Evil Does Not Exist, Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Matteo Garrone, Io Capitano
Special Jury Prize
Green Border, Agnieszka Holland
Guillermo Calderon, Pablo Larrain, El Conde
Cailee Spaeny, Priscilla
Peter Sarsgaard, Memory
Best Young Actor
Seydou Sarr, Io Capitano
Explanation for Everything — Gabor Reisz
Mika Gustafson — Paradiset Brinner (Paradise is Burning)
Special Jury Prize
Una Sterminata Domenica — Alain Parroni
Margarita Rosa De Francisco, El Paraíso
Tergel Bold-Erdene, City of Wind
El Paraíso — Enrico Maria Artale
Best Short Film
A Short Trip — Erenik Beqiri
Lion of the Future — Venice Award for a Debut Film
(Al Shi Yi Ba Qiang) Love Is a Gun — Lee Hong-Ch
Felicita — Micheala Ramazotti
Best Documentary on Cinema
Thank You Very Much — Alex Braverman
Best Restored Film
Ohikkoshi (Moving) — Shinji Somae
Songs for a Passerby — Celine Daemen
Special Jury Prize
Flow — Adriaan Lokman
Emperor — Marion Burger, Ilan Cohen
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