Nobody quite expected the Filipino director, Lav Diaz, to win the Venice Film Festival’s top Golden Lion for his The Woman Who Left -- a laboriously stretched out 226-minute drama about a woman who spends 30 years behind bars for a crime she never committed. The movie did walk away with the prized trophy on Saturday night, despite rather critical reviews.
In those long moments, the helmer tells us how the woman, an elementary school teacher, emerges from the prison to see a horribly corrupt country that provokes her into a frenzied state of revenge. Known to create very long films -- with his last, A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, being eight hours, that was presented at Berlin in February -- Diaz received a pat from the president of the jury, Sam Mendes. He said that all movies are equal, but some movies “are more equal than others”.
However, stylist Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals -- about a woman who receives a book written by her former husband that speaks about love and revenge -- which garnered the Grand Jury Prize, had been a favourite all along the festival, which closed on Saturday after a 11-day run which began on August 31.
But when it came to the jury’s award for best director, there must have been a fierce debate. The shocking The Untamed by the young Mexican helmer, Amat Escalante, divided critics and audiences owing to its subject -- of an alien dispensing sexual pleasure to earthlings! Escalante shared the award with the more classical Russian master, Andrei Konchalovsky, for his Paradise -- a narrative about three people whose lives cross during the devastation of a war.
Another controversial award was the Special Jury Prize for Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Patch -- a tale of cannibalism set just outside the Texas border where the society’s unwanted are cast away. One young critic -- who is certainly not a novice at covering films festivals -- shut his eyes every time the characters chopped off body parts to make a meal out of them.
Oscar Martinez got the Best Actor Award for his outstanding role in Argentina’s A Distinguished Citizen, a work about a Nobel Prize winner who is invited to his little village to receive an honour.
And the Best Actress Award went to Emma Stone -- who was absolutely endearing in the opening musical, La La Land, where she plays a woman who is rejected at one audition after another for a role in cinema.
The stunning biopic, Jackie, got the Best Screenplay Award.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covered the 73rd edition of the Venice Film Festival.)