Hollywood had a pretty good evening on the Lido tonight. After a few years of sitting on the sidelines at the Venice Film Festival, when movies like Spotlight and Birdman were overlooked for gold (or silver), a number of films and talent that are expected to figure in the awards conversation later this year were rewarded.
Among them, Tom Ford’s noir thriller Nocturnal Animals won the Grand Jury Prize; Hollywood musical love letter La La Land’s Emma Stone took the Best Actress Volpi Cup; and Noah Oppenheim won Best Screenplay for Pablo Larrain’s lauded Jackie.
I asked jury president Sam Mendes about the fact that Academy Award winners had recently left the Lido empty-handed and that his jury rewarded movies that are already being heavily talked about in the same breath as Oscar. Without biting on specifics, he said with a smile, “One has a sense of certain awards films that might end up in that discussion. I don’t think my sense is going to be different from yours.”
With her win, Stone becomes the first Hollywood actress to take a Volpi Cup since Cate Blanchett for 2007’s I’m Not There. She’s the first American since fellow redhead Julianne Moore won in 2002 for Far From Heaven. (Both films were directed by Todd Haynes). Stone sent a message to say she could think of “nowhere better to have premiered La La Land” – that drew applause from the press room. The film goes out domestically via Lionsgate on December 2.
The Grand Jury Prize is a very new distinction and Ford becomes the fourth director to win it. Former recipient Joshua Oppenheimer was on the jury this year. Nocturnal Animals was warmly embraced here ahead of its Venice bow and Ford flew back from Toronto to attend the ceremony tonight. He was visibly emotional, and charmed the audience by speaking in Italian saying he truly feels at home here. Focus releases Nocturnal domestically on November 11.
Of The Bad Batch, Ana Lily Amirpour’s dystopian love story that’s set in a cannibal community and won the Special Jury Prize, Mendes said the discussion surrounding the film was “outspoken. We admired massively its spirit and moxie.” Then, he quoted David Mamet and said: “American movies are a collaboration, bend over.” With The Bad Batch, which stars Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey, “Sometimes it’s nice to see an American movie where there is no compromise and no one has bent over,” Mendes added.
Amirpour in her acceptance speech reflected the win was “psychedelic.” She also said she wished her parents had there because “they would really dig this sh*t.”
During the awards ceremony, Mendes said that he enjoyed the fact that in Venice no film can receive more than one prize. I later asked him to elaborate on that and he told me, “What I enjoyed is that it forces you to spread the awards as widely as possible. If you view them as significant for each movie, then you view them as what excited us about them. In more conventional awards, you end up with eight going to the same movies.”
The past 10 days have been filled with standout movies, from all corners, and Mendes’ jury did spread the wealth around, giving the Golden Lion to a 226-minute drama from the Philippines Lav Diaz, The Woman Who Left.
Mendes said there was “a lot of enthusiasm for the film… We’re here to encourage people to come to the cinema to see original films and to make audiences as enthused as we were.”
He added that the jury experience “has taken me away from my comfort zone and inspired me. That’s the thing that’s been most exciting for me. Some of our choices will lead audiences to see these films.”