As the 77th Venice Film Festival took place in between of European lockdowns, leaving viewers in awe of a superb selection, this yer’s festival has sutely outdone it. Headed by Korean maestro Bong Joon-ho, including Chloé Zhao, director of 2020 Golden Lion winner “Nomadland”, the jury had a touch time picking winners.
The competition featured big names – Pedro Almodóvar, Jane Campion, Paul Schrader – as well as major surprises. The show opened with Almodovar's picture “Madres Paralelas”. A lively yet acidic comedy about a volatile auteur, Penélope Cruz, attempting to subdue the egos of two disparate male actors, Antonio Banderas and Oscar Martinez. Cruz and Banderas gleefully ridiculed their own appearances, and the film had a handful of sight gags that would have spectators screaming in surprise. In total, 21 films were included in the official program of the film festival.
The Golden Lion went to the French film "L'événement" by Audrey Diwan. The Silver Lion for Directing went to Jane Campion for the western "The Power of the Dog". The Jury Award for Best Screenplay went to Maggie Gyllenhaal for “The Lost Daughter”, her debut work at the festival. Penélope Cruz (Madres Paralelas) won Best Actress as John Arcilla (On The Job 2) won Best Actor. The Grand Jury Prize went to “The Hand of God" by Paolo Sorrentino, and the Special Jury Prize went to “The Hole” by Michelangelo Frammartino. The Marcello Mastroianni Prize was awarded to the young actor Filippo Scotti (“The Hand of God”).
Alongside the winning pictures, there were other sensations as well. One of the most awaited titles was “Spencer”, starring Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales, having an utterly miserable time during a Windsor family Christmas. Another hotshot was “Sundown” by Mexican director Michel Franco – a story of a man who decided to extend his Acapulco holiday and abandon his everyday life, just when his family needed him most. Another highlight was Xavier Giannoli’s Balzac adaptation “Lost Illusions”, featuring a myriad number of eminent French names that evoke the splendors and miseries of mid-19th-century France and its boom in journalism. Schrader’s thriller “The Card Counter” was also one to remember.
There were two other hot contenders. ”La Caja” by Venezuelan writer-director Lorenzo Vigas, whose “From Afar” won the Golden Lion in 2015. Set in Mexico, his new film was a pared-down story of a teenage boy investigating his father’s death, who enlisted as lieutenant to a man who procures workers for sweatshop factories. And then there was “Captain Volkonogov Escaped” by Natasha Merkulova and Aleksey Chupov, which resembled no other Russian film we’ve seen. Russian cinema’s actor of the moment Yuri Borisov played a KGB officer in 1930s Leningrad, who had a sudden surge of conscience, spurred by the ghostly apparition of a colleague executed in a purge.
Although it’s a comprehensive summery of the cinematic festival, we urge you to learn more about wonderful films, directors, and actors on the official website at https://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema/2021