Venice Announces Winners

September 13, 2020
The general consensus is that the films in this year’s Venice programme were strong arthouse offerings, and in fact stronger in quality than many of the Hollywood films that usually grace the Lido. Yet whether they will be picked up for Australia at such a tough time remains to be seen.

As I sat down to peruse the programme before attending the official awards ceremony I realised it’s not necessarily the competition entries that will make it to Australian cinemas.

Fox-Disney of course has the Golden Lion winner, Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland starring Frances McDormand. The two-time Oscar winner’s portrayal has been deemed the best of her career, though to me she’ll always be Marge Gunderson in Fargo, one of the best films ever made.

In keeping with the film, the pair accepted the award in a van via Zoom. “Thank you so much for letting us come to your festival in this weird, weird world and way!” McDormand told the masked audience. “But we’re really glad you let us come! And we’ll see you down the road!”

Vanessa Kirby, La Biennale di Venezia – Foto ASAC, Andrea Avezz

The best actress award went to Vanessa Kirby for her first leading film role in Kornel Mundruczo’s Pieces of a Woman, a controversial film because of its initial harrowing childbirth scene that could be off-putting to some viewers – and distributors. Still, the award should help. Kirby also appears in another competition entry, The World to Come, a Sony acquisition directed by Mona Fastvold and starring Katherine Waterstone. The film revolves around a romantic relationship between the pair as they struggle in staid marriages in rural 1850s upstate New York.

Jury head Cate Blanchett commended the film for telling those women’s stories and Kirby was thrilled to receive the award from the actress who has been such a huge inspiration in her career. At the following jury press conference Blanchett said of Kirby’s performance, “I’m sure there will be many more to come but it did feel like a career-defining performance.”

Cate Blanchett, La Biennale di Venezia – Foto ASAC, Andrea Avezz

Andrei Konchalovsky won a Special Jury Prize for Dear Comrades! and the film represents a return to form for the 83 year-old Russian director. Mexico’s Michel Franco received the Grand Jury Prize (second place) for his violent protest movie New Order and noted how of late protests have been rampant around the world, so his film talks of universal themes.

At the press conference, Blanchett said that the decision to award the Golden Lion to Nomadland was unanimous. “The verdict was amicable. We had very healthy, respectful robust discussions and I feel that everyone’s voice was heard.”

She added, “I subscribe personally to the Steven Soderbergh school of analysis of direction, in that a director needs to know where to put the camera, they need to be in command of the performance and in command of the narrative. We had several extraordinarily well-directed films that met all of those categories, so it was a very difficult decision to make but it was undeniable in the final assessment.”

How did this differ from her being jury head two years ago in Cannes, especially because of COVID?

“We’re very adaptable as a species, I hope. Certainly, the festival was so well prepared and so organised that after a day or two it felt seamless. I’m sure we’re all going to have a case of adult acne after we take these masks off and go back to our country,” she chuckles. “Good discussion is good discussion with a mask on or not.”

I asked Matt Dillon if he lives in Italy, given the American actor was a last-minute replacement. “I’m not a local but I do live here some of the time. It’s been terrific, it’s been a great, great journey. I was in the process of finishing a documentary film in Italy, so it came as a bit of a surprise and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it, but it worked out. It was great to be here and it was a great selection of films to choose from.”

Blanchett: “And we were thankful that you were.”

THOSE THAT MISSED OUT

I particularly loved Nicole Garcia’s French film Lovers, a romantic triangle between Stacy Martin, Pierre Niney and Benoit Magimel. Magimel could be a strong contender for acting honours further down the line in France as he truly shows his mettle once the film’s thriller element kicks in.

Never Gonna Snow Again, from leading Polish director Malgorzata and Michal Englert was a little too esoteric for Australian tastes, though the central role of a masseur was impressively played by Alec Utgoff, a Ukrainian actor who appears on television’s Stranger Things. And yes, he’s quite a hunk!

Probably the strongest Italian film, Stefano Mordini’s You Came Back starring Stefano Accorsi and Valeria Golino screened out of competition. So did the British film The Duke, which will come to Australian cinemas next year and features yet another fine funny performance from Jim Broadbent as a real life man who beat the system. Helen Mirren is almost unrecognisable in a supporting role as his working class wife.

Two out-of-competition documentaries will likewise make our shores. I Am Greta, a remarkable expose about the environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, was picked up by Madman during the festival, while the release details of Luca Guadagnino’s Salvatore – Shoemaker of Dreams are sketchy, but it’s truly fascinating to discover how Ferragamo was such a prodigy.

One of my favourite films at the Festival, Hopper/Welles screened out of competition and the two-hour interview between Dennis Hopper (just after his success with Easy Rider) and Orson Welles (who we never see) is a treat for film buffs. The film is produced by Polish-born LA-based Filip Jan Rymsza, who also directed the drama Mosquito State, a kind of mix of art and genre in the section. Though the festival’s full-on genre offering came from Kyle Rankin with Run Hide Fight, a high school shooting drama where Aussie Radha Mitchell has a small role.

THE SIDEBARS

Screening in the Horizons section, Full Monty producer Uberto Pasolini’s third directing effort Nowhere Special has been picked up by Icon for Australia. The film boasts an emotional truly special connection between James Norton’s terminally-ill father and his four-year-old son played by the clearly talented and ultra cute Daniel Lamont.

The Hungarian film Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, about a Hungarian doctor living in the US who returns home believing her fellow surgeon wants her, only to discover he doesn’t, was the only film in the Horizons programme to be invited to TIFF. It will also screen in Zurich.

The Man Who Sold His Skin, directed by Paris-based Tunisian director Kaouther Ben Hania, is an audacious Tunisian-French-German-Belgian film about a Syrian man (Yahya Mahayni) who does just that, to become a living artwork, a refugee with the Schengen symbol tattooed on his back, and he gets to have a nice well-heeled life in the process. Newcomer Mahayni is mesmerising and deserved his best actor win in the Horizons section.

50 (or Two Whales meet at the Beach)

One of my favourites was the Mexican film 50 (or Two Whales meet at the Beach), which played in Critics Week. A love story rather than an examination of teen suicide, it is the remarkable first film from 56 year-old Jorge Cuchi who had a successful career in advertising before changing careers and clearly knows his way around a camera.

Oasis, directed by Serbia’s Ivan Ikic took out the Europa Cinemas label award in Venice Days. The film tells of a love triangle that develops between teenagers with intellectual disabilities living in a facility. The jury said how “this beautifully made poetic film” was a unanimous choice.

GOLDEN LION for Best Film to:

NOMADLAND

by Chloé Zhao (USA)

SILVER LION – GRAND JURY PRIZE to:

NUEVO ORDEN (NEW ORDER)

by Michel Franco (Mexico, France)

SILVER LION – AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR to:

Kiyoshi Kurosawa

for the film SPY NO TSUMA (WIFE OF A SPY)  (Japan)

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE to:

DOROGIE TOVARISCHI! (DEAR COMRADES!)

by Andrei Konchalovsky (Russia)

AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY to:

Chaitanya Tamhane

for the film THE DISCIPLE (India)

COPPA VOLPI

for Best Actress:

Vanessa Kirby

in the film PIECES OF A WOMAN by Kornél Mundruczó (Canada, Hungary)

COPPA VOLPI

for Best Actor:

Pierfrancesco Favino

in the film PADRENOSTRO by Claudio Noce (Italy)

MARCELLO MASTROIANNI AWARD

for Best Young Actor or Actress to:

Rouhollah Zamani

in the film KHORSHID (SUN CHILDREN) by Majid Majidi (Iran)

ORIZZONTI AWARDS

The Orizzonti Jury, chaired by Claire Denis and composed of Oskar Alegria, Francesca Comencini, Katriel Schory and Christine Vachon, after screening the 19 feature films and 12 short films in competition has decided to award:

the ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST FILM to:

DASHTE KHAMOUSH (THE WASTELAND)

by Ahmad Bahrami (Iran)

the ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST DIRECTOR to:

Lav Diaz

for the film LAHI, HAYOP (GENUS PAN) (Philippines)

the SPECIAL ORIZZONTI JURY PRIZE to:

LISTEN

by Ana Rocha de Sousa  (United Kingdom, Portugal)

the ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST SCREENPLAY to:

Pietro Castellitto

for the film I PREDATORI (Italy)

the ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST ACTRESS to:

Khansa Batma

in the film ZANKA CONTACT by Ismaël El Iraki (France, Morocco, Belgium)

the ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST ACTOR to:

Yahya Mahayni

in the film THE MAN WHO SOLD HIS SKIN by Kaouther Ben Hania (Tunisia, France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden)

the ORIZZONTI AWARD FOR BEST SHORT FILM to:

ENTRE TÚ Y MILAGROS

by Mariana Saffon (Colombia, USA)

the VENICE SHORT FILM NOMINATION FOR THE

EUROPEAN FILM AWARDS 2020 to:

THE SHIFT

by Laura Carreira (United Kingdom, Portugal)

LION OF THE FUTURE

“LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS” VENICE AWARD FOR A DEBUT FILM

Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 77th Venice Film Festival, chaired by Claudio Giovannesi and comprised of Rémi Bonhomme and Dora Bouchoucha, has decided to award:

LION OF THE FUTURE

“LUIGI DE LAURENTIIS” VENICE AWARD FOR A DEBUT FILM to:

LISTEN

by Ana Rocha de Sousa (United Kingdom, Portugal)

ORIZZONTI

as well as a prize of 100,000 US dollars, donated by Filmauro, to be divided equally between the director and the producer

VENICE VR EXPANDED

The Venice VR Expanded Jury, chaired by Céline Tricart and composed of Asif Kapadia and Hideo Kojima, after viewing the 31 projects in competition has decided to award:

the GRAND JURY PRIZE FOR BEST VR IMMERSIVE WORK to:

THE HANGMAN AT HOME – AN IMMERSIVE SINGLE USER EXPERIENCE

by Michelle and Uri Kranot (Denmark, France, Canada)

the BEST VR IMMERSIVE USER EXPERIENCE to:

FINDING PANDORA X 

by Kiira Benzing  (USA)

the BEST VR IMMERSIVE STORY to:

SHA SI DA MING XING (KILLING A SUPERSTAR)

by Fan Fan (China)

GOLDEN LION FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT 2020 to:

Ann Hui

Tilda Swinton

JAEGER-LECOULTRE GLORY TO THE FILMMAKER AWARD 2020 to:

Abel Ferrara

CAMPARI PASSION FOR FILM AWARD to:

Terence Blanchard

Main Photo: Vanessa Kirby, La Biennale di Venezia – Foto ASAC, Andrea Avezz

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