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‘From Afar’ by Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas wins the Golden Lion in Venice

'From Afar' by Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas wins the Golden Lion in Venice

A Venezuelan directing his first feature has won the Golden
Lion in Venice. In a fairly open year, writer/director Lorenzo Vigas saw off competition
from a handful of established directors to claim a sensational, yet deserved victory
with his psychological drama ‘From Afar’ (‘Desde Alle’).

Argentine Pablo
Trapero scooped best director for his true crime drama ‘The Clan’ (‘El Clan’).

Charlie Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson won the Grand
Jury Prize for their stop motion feature ‘Anomalisa’. On the ground, Kaufman’s astonishing
first foray into animation was among the favourites for the top prize, along
with Aleksandr Sokurov’s Louvre-based reflection on art and war, ‘Francophilia’,
and Chinese director Zhao Liang’s ‘Behemoth’, a stunning documentary about the human
and environmental cost of Mongolia’s rampant mining industry.

Yet given the make-up of the competition jury, led by Mexican
Alonso Cuarón, the decision to favour Vigas is a logical one. Cuarón would be understandably
sympathetic to a Latin American voice – whose production team, incidentally,
included Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and director Michel Franco; and
fellow jurors Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Pawel Pawlikowski, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Lynne
Ramsay are all rigorous  directors who
would admire the restrained, austere control that the Venezuelan exerts over
his unusual love story between a wealthy, emotionally stunted middle-aged man
and a young hustler from a poor Caracas neighbourhood. The film also benefits hugely
from the work of two Pablo Larraín collaborators – star Alfredo Castro and
cinematographer Sergio Armstrong.

It’s a relief that the jury has at least given ‘Anomalisa’ its
second prize; what Kaufman and Johnson have achieved in their film, using
animation to lend day-to-day themes an extraordinary piquancy, is uncanny and
even revolutionary.

Trapero has been honing the thriller aspects of his
direction for some time now, and his work on ‘The Clan’ is well-executed and exciting,
while intelligently portraying the political background and emotional
perversity involved when a “family business” happens to be kidnap and murder.

And I can think of no more deserving a winner of the award
for best young actor or actress than Abraham Attah, the Ghanaian who so
movingly carries Cary Fukunaga’s blistering child soldier drama ‘Beasts of No
Nation’.

Some of the other awards are, to be polite, puzzling. I didn’t
know whether to regard Christian Vincent’s ‘Courted’ (‘L’Hermine’) as a
courtroom drama or a romcom; it barely functions as either, yet it won best
screenplay and best actor for Fabrice Luchini, who doesn’t offer anything
beyond his usual well-spoken curmudgeon. Valeria Golino’s best actress turn as
a woman trying to escape the shackles of a loan shark husband while allowing herself
to be courted by an oleaginous TV star in ‘Per Amor Vostro’ is as affected as
the film itself.

Though lacking a little discipline, there is more to admire
in the winner of the special jury prize, Turkish drama ‘Frenzy’ (‘Abluka’),
which posits a dystopian Istanbul where the battle between state and terrorists
is at fever pitch, and in the midst of which two brothers slowly lose their
minds.

Venezia 72 winners

Golden Lion for best film: ‘From Afar’

Silver Lion for best director: Pablo Trapero, ‘The Clan’

Grand Jury Prize: ‘Anomalisa’

Coppa Volpi for best actress: Valeria Golino, ‘Per Amor Vostro’

Coppa Volpi for best actor, Fabrice Luchini, ‘Courted’

Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor or actress:
Abraham Attah, ‘Beasts of No Nation’

Best Screenplay: Christian Vincent, ‘Courted’

Special Jury Prize, ‘Frenzy’

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