The Venice Film Festival gave away its awards on Saturday at the end of the Lido event’s annual 11-day run. But the prizes were buried in controversy – a feature that seems to happen too often.
It is said that the jury, chaired by the American movie director, Michael Mann, was set to declare the Paul Thomas Anderson-helmed feature, The Master, the Golden Lion Winner, the Festival’s top trophy. But a quirky Festival rule made that impossible, and the Golden Lion went to Korean director Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta.
The Master, a film about the early origins of Scientology, was indeed a masterpiece, and Pieta focussing on a loan shark’s wildly wicked and violent ways was several notches below Anderson’s haunting work.
During the jury’s first deliberations, it had reportedly wanted to honour The Master with the Golden Lion, and its actors, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, with the Silver Lion for best performances.
But the Festival regulations do not allow one movie to clinch more than one major award. So the jury was asked to re-deliberate, and it had to rather “unhappily’ strip The Master of its Golden Lion and give it to Pieta.
But would it not have made better sense to retain the Golden Lion with The Master, and shift the acting prize to someone else?
The world’s oldest Festival, which turned 80 this time, has had an ugly history of awards controversy since the days when it was in the grip of Fascist rulers. In recent years, controversy has returned to trouble and even shame the Lido event.
In 2010, jury president Quentin Tarantino faced severe criticism when most of the Festival’s main prizes went to directors he was close to, including the Golden Lion to Somewhere by Sofia Coppola, Tarantino’s former girlfriend.
In 2008, the same set of irrational rules made it impossible for the jury to give the Golden Lion to Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler and to also honour Mickey Rourke with the Coppa Volpi for best actor. In the end, the film was given the Golden Lion and Rourke lost out on the acting prize, which was given to Italy's Silvio Orlando for his work in Giovanna's Father.
This year, the Special Jury Prize went to Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Faith (an exploration of religious faith) and the Copa Volpi prize for best actress went to Hadas Yaron for her part in Fill the Void from Israel.
The Marcello Mastroianni trophy for best new young actor or actress went to Fabrizio Falco, for his roles in Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty and The Son Was Here by Daniele Cipri.