Todd Phillips's Joker, won this year's Golden Lion, the Festival's highest award. This surprised many, as superhero-derived films, as well as its provocative genre, are unusual winners of such high-profile awards.
Most shocking, however, was Roman Polanski's Grand Jury Prize win for An Officer and A Spy. Happening on the heels of the #meetoo movement, awarding such a controversial figure as Polanski marked this edition by the debate on gender representation in the industry. The jury president, Argentine auteur Lucrecia Martel, refused to attend Polanski's red carpet premiere. However, she later explained she would still see the film with an open mind. An Officer and A Spy went on to get no only the Grand Jury Prize, but also a lot of praise from the critics and the FIPRESCI Prize.
Here are all the winners of the 2019 Venice Film Festival Competition:
directed by Todd Phillips
The highest prize went for Todd Phillip's Joker. This psychological thriller tells the origin story of Batman's infamous supervillain played by Joaquin Phoenix. Set in 1981, it follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City.
Rotten Tomatoes concludes that "Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star -- and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema." Both the movie and its cast are set to be one of the stars in the upcoming awards season.
Grand Jury Prize
directed by Roman Polanski
The film centers on the notorious 19th century Dreyfus affair. Jean Dujardin stars as French officer Georges Picquart. After being appointed the chief of the army's intelligence section in 1895, he discovers that doctored evidence was used to convict Alfred Dreyfus, one of the few Jewish members of the French Army's general staff, of passing military secrets to the German Empire. Picquart risks his career and his life, struggling for a decade to expose the truth and liberate the wrongly convicted Dreyfus from the dreaded Devil's Island prison.
Critics range from calling it "an absolute masterclass in how to make an historical film" (David Sexton, London Evening Standard), to claiming that it "becomes a starchy military procedural with a cavalcade of handsome cabs and handlebar moustaches" (Raphael Abraham, Financial Times).
Still, it is a controversial win, given that Polanski is still a fugitive from the U.S. justice system after pleading guilty to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1978.
Silver Lion for Best Director
directed by Roy Andersson
Swedish director Roy Andersson took the Silver Lion for Best Director for his work in the movie About Endlessness. Following the same style as his 2014 Golden Lion A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, it is another artfully composed collection of existential sketches in his signature deadpan style.
Volpi Cup for Best Actor
directed by Pietro Marcello
Italian actor Luca Marinelli was a popular Best Actor winner for his performance in the title role of Pietro Marcello's lavish Jack London adaptation Martin Eden. It is the story of a protagonist who struggles to rise above his destitute, proletarian circumstances through an intense and passionate pursuit of self-education, hoping to achieve a place among the literary elite.
Volpi Cup for Best Actress
directed by Robert Guédiguian
The French actress Ariane Ascaride received the Best Actress award for her participation in Gloria Mundi, directed by Robert Guediguian. Following his line of previous works, which all deal with life and love and social class in the suburbs of Marseille, Gloria Mundi is, again, a contemporary, intergenerational, socially conscientious, bittersweet family drama set in the southern French port city.
Special Jury Prize
directed by Franco Maresco
Another Italian victory at this year's Festival, Franco Maresco won the Special Jury Prize for his satirical documentary film The Mafia Is No Longer What It Used to Be. Intended as a follow-up to Belluscone: A Sicilian Story (2014), the movie is a journey inside the mafia and the anti-mafia in today's Palermo. Critics are more on the negative side, pointing out that its "endlessly repetitive setups and the headache-inducing voiceover are strictly for local audiences" (Jay Weissberg, Variety).
Golden Osella for Best Screenplay
directed by Yonfan
Hong Kong film director and photographer Yonfan received the Best Screenplay award for his first animated film, No. 7 Cherry Lane. Set in an era coinciding with Hong Kong's turbulent times of 1967, the movie tells the tale of Ziming, an English literature student who finds himself caught in a love triangle with the woman he is tutoring and her mother. Yonfan returns to directing after a 10-year absence, delivering a spellbinding love letter to Hong Kong and the movies.
Marcello Mastroianni Award
directed by Shannon Murphy
Australian actor Toby Wallace won 2019's Marcello Mastroianni Award, which recognizes an emerging actor or actress. He plays the role of a smalltime drug dealer called Moses in the drama Babyteeth, directed by Shannon Murphy. The bittersweet comedy, adapted by Rita Kalnejais from her stage play of the same name, follows a couple who discover their seriously ill teenage daughter has fallen in love with Moses.
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