Poor Things Wins Golden Lion at Venice Film Festival
Yorgos Lanthimos's critically acclaimed Poor Things wins the Golden Lion for Best Film, emerging winner in the diverse array of films that showcased artistic innovation and compelling storytelling. By: Theng Min Yee
As the curtains fell on the 2023 Venice Film Festival, speculations about the Golden Lion winner dominated conversations. The consensus among pundits was that the outcome hinged on Yorgos Lanthimos's critically acclaimed Poor Things, or films on the global migrant crisis, such as Matteo Garrone's Me Captain and Agnieszka Holland's Green Border.
Ultimately, the jury struck a balance, awarding major honours to all three films along with Ryusuke Hamaguchi's enigmatic environmental tale, Evil Does Not Exist. Poor Things, an audacious adult fantasy featuring Emma Stone as an unconventional character on a transformative journey, secured the coveted Golden Lion for the festival's best film. The film had been generating fervent buzz since its early screening. Lanthimos's opulent production, backed by Searchlight Pictures, received an overwhelmingly positive reception, praised for its offbeat humour, stunning visuals, and empowering feminist message. Variety's critic hailed it as "a vast absurdist odyssey" and commended the ensemble cast, including Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, and others.
This victory marks Lanthimos's return to the Venice Film Festival five years after his celebrated film The Favourite. Searchlight Pictures, which also steered the success of The Favourite, is poised for another robust campaign across various categories for Poor Things, slated for a U.S. release on December 8.
While Emma Stone's transformative portrayal garnered widespread acclaim, festival rules dictated that the Golden Lion winner could not receive additional awards. This opened the door for fellow American Cailee Spaeny to clinch the Best Actress accolade for her portrayal of Priscilla Presley in Sofia Coppola's biopic Priscilla.
Peter Sarsgaard's poignant portrayal of a dementia-stricken widower in Michel Franco's Memory earned him the Best Actor award, highlighting the film's emotional depth. In an impassioned speech, Sarsgaard addressed industry concerns about fair pay and emphasized the significance of human connection in their craft.
Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Evil Does Not Exist received the Grand Jury Prize for its powerful message against capitalist development in rural areas. While the film sparked admiration and debate, it is expected to be a major conversation piece in the world of arthouse cinema.
Among the migrant-themed films, Garrone's Me Captain emerged victorious, securing Best Director for the Italian filmmaker and Best Young Actor for Seydou Sarr's remarkable performance. Agnieszka Holland's powerful "Green Border" received the Special Jury Prize, shedding light on the plight of a Syrian family fleeing from ISIS.
Additional honours included Best Screenplay for Pablo Larraín and Guillermo Calderón's political satire El Conde and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Feature, presented to Taiwanese actor-director Lee Hong-Chi for Love is a Gun.
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