Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone’s ‘Poor Things’ Wins Golden Lion at Venice, Peter Sarsgaard and Cailee Spaeny Take Acting Prizes (Full List of Winners)

As pundits made their Golden Lion predictions in the last days of the Venice Film Festival, the general consensus was that it all depended on what kind of mood Damien Chazelle’s competition jury was in: playful, in which case Yorgos Lanthimos’s early critical darling “Poor Things” would sweep to victory; or sober, which could tilt the prize toward either of two urgent films about the global migrant crisis, breaking later in the fest, Matteo Garrone’s “Me Captain” and Agnieszka Holland’s “Green Border.”

In the end, the jury split the difference, handing major prizes to all three films, plus Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s quiet, cryptic environmental fable “Evil Does Not Exist.” But playfulness ultimately pulled ahead. “Poor Things,” a delirious adult fantasy starring Emma Stone as a horny Frankenwoman on a wild coming-of-age journey, took the Golden Lion for best film of the festival, making good on the breathless buzz surrounding it since its premiere in the early days of the festival.

More from Variety

Lanthimos’s lavish, Searchlight Pictures-backed film was met with one of the most unilaterally glowing receptions for any Venice premiere in recent memory, as critics and audiences alike thrilled to its bawdy, offbeat comedy, dazzling visual spectacle and pointed message of feminist empowerment. In a rave review, Variety’s critic described it as “a vast absurdist odyssey, positively compact at a galloping 141 minutes, that takes in a groaning buffet of settings and ripe secondary characters — all played with relish by a dream ensemble.” Said ensemble also includes Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, Ramy Youssef and Jerrod Carmichael.

Lanthimos’s win comes five years after he took the runner-up Grand Jury Prize for his dizzy royalty farce “The Favourite,” which also took Best Actress for Olivia Colman, en route to an awards-season run that culminated in 10 Oscar nominations and a win for Colman. Searchlight, which also steered “The Favourite,” will be planning another full-steam campaign in pretty much all categories for “Poor Things,” which was also celebrated Telluride and will next play at the New York Film Festival; it hits theatres Stateside on December 8.

Producer-star Stone’s tour-de-force as a literal woman-child, evolving before our eyes, may have been one of the most discussed performances of the festival — but with Venice rules dictating that the Golden Lion champ can’t win anything else, that cleared the way for another Best Actress victor. The beneficiary was a fellow American: 25-year-old Cailee Spaeny, a revelation to many as the young Priscilla Presley in Sofia Coppola’s intimate biopic “Priscilla,” which calls on the star to play Elvis Presley’s ex-wife from her early teens to her early thirties. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman praised Spaeny for “[making] Priscilla a figure of strength, but the force of her performance is how she enacts her slow-motion melancholy.” In a brief, overwhelmed speech, Spaeny dedicated her award to Presley “for trusting me with something truly complex, so personal and difficult.”

Giving the night’s longest and most impassioned speech, Peter Sarsgaard won Best Actor for his turn as a dementia-stricken New York widower in Michel Franco’s “Memory,” a performance deemed “unforgettable” by Peter Debruge in his Variety review. In one of multiple allusions during the ceremony to the ongoing WGA and SAG strikes, an emotional Sarsgaard said, “All of the issues regarding fair pay are important, but the issue that’s stuck with me is AI,” elaborating that “the work we do is about connection, this animated space between us.” “If we lose that battle, our industry will be the first of many to fall,” he warned, concluding that “disconnection paves the way for atrocities.” He shared his award, he said, with co-star Jessica Chastain: “People talk about losing themselves in roles, but we found ourselves in ours.”

Japanese director Hamaguchi, an Oscar winner last year for his Chekhov-inspired intimate epic “Drive My Car,” won the Grand Jury Prize for “Evil Does Not Exist,” a thorny parable protesting capitalist development of rural environments that drew much admiration from critics — as well as extensive debate over its ambiguous, enigmatic ending. Variety’s Jessica Kiang described it as [a swing] away from its prior axis of cautious, melancholy optimism toward something far colder, wintrier and more fraught.” The film likely won’t unite opinion as much as “Drive My Car” did, but it looks to be one of the major arthouse conversation pieces of the next year.

Of the two migrant-themed films, Garrone’s sweeping “Me Captain” was the most successful, taking two prizes: Best Director for the Italian auteur, and Best Young Actor for its remarkable teenage lead Seydou Sarr, a TikTok star in his native Senegal, and fully commanding as a vulnerable boy on an arduous journey across Africa, in an attempt to cross to Italy. Veteran Polish director Holland had to settle for the Special Jury Prize for her harrowing “Green Border,” a portrait of a Syrian family fleeing ISIS for Belarus, which many presumed was Lanthimos’s chief obstacle to the Golden Lion. In a staunchly political speech, Holland called out European leaders for failing to assist in the crisis, “not because we don’t have the resources, but because we don’t want to.”

Rounding out the Competition awards, Best Screenplay went to Chilean director Pablo Larraín  and co-writer Guillermo Calderón for a very different political statement: the Netflix-produced “El Conde,” a pitch-black comic horror which images former dictator Augusto Pinochet still roaming the earth as a very thirsty vampire. Offering a shoutout to striking WGA scribes, Larraín pledged his “passion and compassion for the writers.”

Another political comedy, Hungarian director Gabor Reisz’s sprawlingly ambitious “Explanation for Everything,” took the top prize in the festival’s secondary Horizons competition; Variety’s critic praised the “confidently imposing” film about a right-wing media circus surrounding a high-schooler’s failed finals exam, as “escalatingly absurd but underpinned by a mordant plausibility throughout.” In something of a surprise, the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Feature went to Taiwanese actor-director Lee Hong-Chi’s film “Love is a Gun,” which premiered outside the festival’s official selection, in the Critics’ Week sidebar.

The top prize on the festival’s VR-oriented Venice Immersive sidebar, meanwhile, went to Dutch director Celine Daemen’s highly inventive “Song for a Passerby,” which encourages viewers to watch themselves as ghosts, or to see themselves as elements in a dreamworld — something that could also be said for Lanthimos’s triumphant vision.


Golden Lion for Best Film: “Poor Things,” Yorgos Lanthimos
Grand Jury Prize: “Evil Does Not Exist,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Silver Lion for Best Director: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone
Special Jury Prize: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland
Best Screenplay: “El Conde,” Guillermo Calderón, Pablo Larraín
Volpi Cup for Best Actress: “Priscilla,” Cailee Spaeny
Volpi Cup for Best Actor: “Memory,” Peter Sarsgaard
Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor: “Me Captain,” Seydou Sarr

Best Film: “Explanation for Everything,” Gabor Reisz
Best Director: “Paradise is Burning,” Mika Gustafson
Special Jury Prize: “An Endless Sunday,” Alain Parroni
Best Actress: “El Paraiso,” Margarita Rosa De Francisco
Best Actor: “City of Wind,” Tergel Bold-Erdene
Best Screenplay: “El Paraiso,” Enrico Maria Artale
Best Short Film: “A Short Trip,” Erenik Beqiri

Luigi de Laurentiis Award for Best Debut Feature: “Love is a Gun,” Lee Hong-Chi

Audience Award: “Felicita,” Micaela Ramazzotti

Best Documentary on Cinema: “Thank You Very Much,” Alex Braverman
Best Restored Film: “Moving,” Shinji Sōmai

Grand Jury Prize: “Song for a Passerby,” Celine Daemen
Special Jury Prize: “Flow,” Adriaan Lokman
Achievement Prize: “Emperor,” Marion Burger, Ilan Cohen

VENICE DAYS (announced earlier)
GdA Director’s Award: “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” Ariane Louis-Seize
Audience Award: “Through the Night,” Delphine Girard
Europa Cinemas Label Award: “Photophobia,” Ivan Ostrochovsky, Pavol Pekarčík

CRITICS’ WEEK (announced earlier)
Grand Prize: “Malqueridas,” Tana Gilbert
Special Mention: Saura Lightfoot Leon in “Hoard” and Ariane Labed in “The Vourdalak,” for their performances
Audience Award: “Hoard,” Luna Carmoon
Verona Film Club Award for Most Innovative Film: “Hoard,” Luna Carmoon
Mario Serandrei – Hotel Saturnia Award for Best Technical Contribution: “Malqueridas,” Tana Gilbert
Best Short Film: “The Lost Memories of Trees,” Antonio Le Camera
Best Director (Short Film): “Ender’s Line,” Gabriele Biasi
Best Technical Contribution (Short Film): “We Should All Be Futurists,” Angela Norelli

COLLATERAL AWARDS (announced earlier)

FIPRESCI Award: “Evil Does Not Exist,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi
FIPRESCI Award for Best Film from Orizzonti and Parallel Sections: “An Endless Sunday,” Alain Parroni

Queer Lion Award: “Housekeeping for Beginners,” Goran Stolevski

ARCA CinemaGiovani Awards
Best Film in Venice: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland
Best Italian Film in Venice: “El Praiso,” Enrico Maria Artale

Authors Under 40 Awards
Best Directing and Screenwriting: Luna Carmoon, “Hoard”
Best Screenwriting: Mika Gustafson, “Paradise is Burning”
Special Mention: “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” Ariane Louis-Seize, Christine Doyon
Special Mention for Editing: “Malqueridas,” Javira Velozo, Tana Gilbert

Brian Award: “Tatami,” Guy Nattiv, Zar Amir Ebrahimi

Pietro Bianchi Award: Sergio Castellitto

XXXV CICT – UNESCO Enrico Fulchignoni Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone

Cinema & Arts Awards
Best Films: “Backstage,” Afef Ben Mahmoud, Khalil Benkirane; “Making Of,” Cédric Kahn
Special Mention dedicated to a multidisciplinary artist: Chong Keat Aun, “Snow in Midsummer”

Premio CinemaSarà: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland
Special Mention: “Evil Does Not Exist,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Civitas Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone

Edipo Re Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone

Ca’ Foscari Young Jury Award: “Evil Does Not Exist,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Premio Fondazione Fai Persona Lavoro Ambiente: “Evil Does Not Exist,” Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Special Mention for treatment of issues related to environment): “Housekeeping for Beginners,” Goran Stolevski
Special Mention for treatment of issues related to work): “Making Of,” Cédric Kahn; “The Red Suitcase,” Fidel Devkota

Fanheart3 Awards
Graffetta d’Oro for Best Film: “Dogman,” Luc Besson
Nave d’Argento for Best OTP: to the characters Sasha and Paul in “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person,” Ariane Louis-Seize 
XR Fan Experience: “Gargoyle Doyle,” Ethan Shaftel
XR Special Mention: “Pixel Ripped 1978,” Ana Ribeiro

Federazione Italiana dei Cineclub Awards
Best Film: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone
Special Mention: “Anna,” Marco Amenta
Special Mention Best Short Film: “We Should All Be Futurists,” Angela Norelli
Jury Special Prize: “Passione Critica,” Simone Isola, Franco Montini, Patrizia Pistagnesi

Francesco Pasinetti Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone

Green Drop Award: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland; “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone
Special Mention: “Materia Viva,” Stefania Vialetto, Marco Falorni, Andrea Frassoni

ImpACT Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone

Lanterna Magica Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone

UNICEF Leoncino d’Oro Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone
Cinema for UNICEF: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland

Lizzani Award: “Invelle,” Simone Massi

Nuovoimaie Talent Awards
Best New Young Actor: Gianmarco Franchini, “Adagio”
Best New Young Actress: Sara Ciocca, “Nina dei Lupi”

La Pellicola d’Oro Awards
Best Production Director: Claudia Cravotta, “Me Captain”
Best Camera Operator: Massimiliano Kuveiller, “Finally Dawn”
Best Set Designer: Simona Balducci, “Comandante”

Robert Bresson Award: Mario Martone

SIGNIS Award: “Me Captain,” Matteo Garrone
Special Mention: “The Promised Land,” Nikolaj Arcel

Sorriso Diverso Venezia Awards
Best Italian Film: “The Penitent – A Rational Man,” Luca Barbareschi
Best Foreign Film: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland

Premio Soundtrack Stars Award
Best Soundtrack: “Me Captain,” Andrea Farri
Special Mention: “The Killer,” Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Special Prize: “Adagio,” Subsonica
Special Prize: Levante for the song “Leggera” in “Romantiche”

Mediterranean University Union Awards
Best Film: “Poor Things,” Yorgos Lanthimos
Prize for Cultural Diversity: “Green Border,” Agnieszka Holland

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.