The Venice Film Festival draws to a close tomorrow after a very successful run for some high-profile and arthouse entries from around the world. Roundly in my conversations with industry folk on and off the Lido this past week, the refrain has been how good everything looked across the competition and out-of-competition strands. The first parallel section prizes from Venice Days and Critics Week have been announced today (see below). The Golden Lion and other major awards will be handed out tomorrow night. With such an embarrassment of riches, there’s some head-scratching about which way Sam Mendes’ jury will go — but it would not be surprising to see Hollywood snatch some gold (or silver) after recent years of strong titles that left the Lido empty-handed.
Several Hollywood offerings splashed down on the Lido this week both in and out of the main horse race, and each was warmly embraced -– leaving a trail of Oscar buzz as they carried on to Telluride and/or Toronto. One out-of-competition film that’s bypassed that circuit is Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge which was among the highlights of this festival and which Lionsgate releases domestically on November 4.
The proceedings had earlier kicked off in style on August 31 with Damien Chazelle’s lauded La La Land, also from Lionsgate. That Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling contemporary ode to the grand Hollywood musical is in competition and is tied as the best reviewed among international critics polled by the festival. The tying film is Pablo Larrain’s Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in the days immediately following the assassination of JFK. It’s one of the titles at Toronto that has a lot of acquisitions heat.
Also scoring well among critics was Denis Villeneuve’s lyrical sci-fi drama Arrival which Paramount has domestically, and Tom Ford’s noir thriller Nocturnal Animals from Focus. Both helmers have been to Venice before: Villeneuve was in Venice Days with Incendies and Ford’s A Single Man won the Volpi Cup for Colin Firth in 2009. Among the offshore titles that have played to acclaim are Argentine dramedy El Ciudadano Ilustre (The Distinguished Citizen) from Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat; and French pics Stephane Brizé’s Une Vie and François Ozon’s Frantz.
But it’s notable that in recent years, some of the films which have looked like clear favorites or enjoyed the greatest acclaim here have nevertheless failed to win prizes. That’s been the case with both eventual Best Picture Oscar winners Birdman and Spotlight. Gravity, which bowed here in 2013, was not in competition so was not eligible for prizes, but had a stellar awards season run. Last year’s Anomalisa from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson did scoop the relatively new Grand Jury Prize and then picked up an Oscar nomination as Best Animated Feature.
The last time a Hollywood filmmaker won the Golden Lion was in 2010 when Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere took it. That stoked the ire of the Italian press since her ex-boyfriend Quentin Tarantino was the jury president that year. We have to look back to 2012 for a Hollywood filmmaker to have scooped the Silver Lion for Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson with The Master.
That film’s Joaquin Phoenix and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman shared the Best Actor Volpi Cup. In fact, male actors with a big international profile have had a better showing in Venice than any other group in the past several years. Along with Firth, among winners since 2000 have been Javier Bardem, Sean Penn, David Strathairn, Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender and Adam Driver. Among the ladies, Helen Mirren won the Volpi Cup for The Queen in 2006, and later the Oscar. This year, Amy Adams’ dual turns in Nocturnal and Arrival, as well as Portman in Jackie and Stone in La La Land have won ardent fans.
Will Sam Mendes’ jury agree with festgoers on those and others? We’ll be back tomorrow with the winners. In the meantime, here’s how Venice Days and Critics’ Week went today:
The Venice Days jury has given its 2016 award to Syrian documentary The War Show by Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon. The well-reviewed film follows a group of artists and activists from the promise of the Arab Spring through to the grim realities of war. It next screens in Toronto.
In Critics Week, the Audience Award went to Juan Sebastian Mesa’s Los Nadie (The Nobodies) from Colombia. Shot over seven days, it’s the story of five teenage friends living in Medellin. Critics Week also gave a prize to The Last Of Us by Ala Eddine Slim for Best Technical Contribution. The existential road movie from Tunisia, Qatar, the UAE and Lebanon was honored for Amine Messadi’s editing and Moncef Taleb and Yazid Chabbi’s sound.