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Mexico's Cold War Fantasy, The Shape of Water Clinches Golden Lion At Venice

It was clear that the Annette Bening jury at the just-ended 74th Venice Film Festival favoured fantasy to fact when it celebrated Guillermo de Toro's fairytale, The Shape of Water, with the top Golden Lion for Best Picture.

Gautaman Bhaskaran |

Updated:September 10, 2017, 11:22 AM IST
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It was clear that the Annette Bening jury at the just-ended 74th Venice Film Festival favoured fantasy to fact when it celebrated Guillermo de Toro's fairytale, The Shape of Water, with the top Golden Lion for Best Picture. The movie was one among the 20 others – like George Clooney's Suburbicon and Javier Bardem-Penelope Cruz-starrer Loving Pablo – that had punters putting their pounds on.

venice-1Image: Youtube/ A still from The Shape Of Water

But yes, The Shape of Water from Mexico was an alluring piece of fiction, narrated with a touch of finesse. A parable set in the Cold War era, starring Sally Hawkins, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon, the film was a sad, sweet and sexy love story of the most unusual kind. The girl, Elisa (Hawkins), cannot speak, and her boyfriend lives in water. He has fins and gills, and The Shape of Water is a mermaid story with a difference.

The Grand Jury Prize, the Silver Lion, went to Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot, about an Israeli family’s grief over their soldier son. It was a frightening case of how mistaken identity could cause havoc in people's lives. Imagine when the ageing parents are told that their soldier son is dead – only to be informed hours later that there had been a horrendous mistake!

venice-2Image: Youtube/ A still from Foxtrot

Maoz won the Golden Lion for his 2009 Lebanon – a uniquely experimental Israeli war movie which is narrated from the inside of an army tank! The film also won the 14th Annual Satyajit Ray Award.

The Silver Lion for the Best Director went to Xavier Legrand for his dramatic Custody – where a child finds himself as a victim torn between his parents squabbling for his custody. Eventually, when the court rules in favour of joint custody, the child is dragged deeper into a torturous pit.

I saw something similar at the Cannes Film Festival in May. An unforgiving image of Russia - Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless - deals with parental selfishness and how it shatters, even destroys, the lives of their children. This is a story that an increasingly self-centered Indian community can easily identify with, given the shooting number of marital rifts and divorces, Loveless is a powerful indictment of an unfeeling society from a helmer who earlier gave us a masterly Leviathan.

The British playwright, Martin McDonagh, won the Best Screenplay Award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a poignantly powerful look at the rape and murder of a teenage girl whose mother (Frances McDormand) takes it upon herself to find the culprit when the police fail. And what a novel way she choses to hit back at the uniformed men. Why by ridiculing the force. She puts up three billboards screaming about the lack of initiative by the cops, and has them placed strategically outside the police station.

As far as performance went, Charlotte Rampling (I still remember her riveting piece of acting in Francois Ozon's gripping drama, Swimming Pool, where she plays a woman with a writer's block, a work that was slaughtered out of shape in India) walked away with the Best Actress Prize in Andrea Pallaora's Hanah – where she portrays the angst of one swinging between delusion and reality after her husband's imprisonment.

Kamel El Basha was adjudged the Best Actor for his role as a Palestinian foreman in The Insult – a work that talks about how the quarrel of two men, a Christian and a Muslim, over a trivial issue sparks riots in Beirut.


Golden Lion For Best Film
The Shape Of Water (USA), Guillermo del Toro

Silver Lion – Grand Jury Prize
Foxtrot (Israel-Germany-France-Switzerland), Samuel Maoz

Silver Lion - Award For Best Director
Xavier Legrand, Custody (France)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actress
Charlotte Rampling, Hannah (Italy-Belgium-France)

Coppa Volpi for Best Actor
Kamel El Basha, The Insult (Lebanon-France)

Award For Best Screenplay
Martin McDonaghm Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (UK)

Special Jury Prize
Sweet Country (Australia), Warwick Thornton

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor or Actress
Charlie Plummer, Lean On Pete(UK)

Lion Of The Future “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award For A Debut Film
Custody, Xavier Legrand

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is an author, commentator and movie critic who covered the just ended Venice Film Festival)
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