It’s Friday night while I’m writing this post, and the 2019 Venice Film Festival has unofficially closed. Of course, the official closure will come on Saturday night, 7pm CEST, when the Competition jury headed by Argentine director Lucrecia Martel will unveil their picks for the awards of Venezia 76.
What are they going to pick? Will they choose artistically daring films, arthouse works or will they contemplate giving major awards to Hollywood productions as well? Based on what I’ve heard during my days on the Lido, nothing is to be taken for granted when it comes to this jury, composed of film critics and historians, actors, cinematographers and eccentric directors. In this article, I’ll try to predict the jury’s picks (knowing very well that I will fail miserably) and voicing my opinion about what would deserve to appear in the “palmares”.
Should win: Marriage Story. Noah Baumbach’s pitch-perfect portrayal of a dissolving bi-coastal couple is an example of a screenwriter at the top of his game. Combining comedy, affecting drama and profoundly human and relatable characters, the writing in this Netflix production defies description and criticism.
Will win: Marriage Story.
SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
Should win: Babyteeth. Debut director Shannon Murphy’s story about a cancer-stricken teenage girl and her relationship with her parents and her eccentric boyfriend has charmed everyone at the Lido. Filmed with delicacy and a distinct gentle touch, this small Australian indie film deserves an important award and this one is the perfect fit.
Will win: A Herdade. Tiago Guedes’s sweeping portrayal of a landowning family on the backdrop of the last 60 years of Portuguese history won’t probably go empty-handed, especially with a jury president that loves historical and political stories.
VOLPI CUP FOR BEST ACTRESS
Should win: Catherine Deneuve – The Truth. The legendary French actress gives a tour-de-force performance as Fabienne, an aging actress having to deal with family drama, face ghosts from her past and come to terms with the sad realization that she’s reaching the final stages of her life.
Will win: Mariana Di Girolamo – Ema. Despite the presence of old and young film stars at the Lido this year, its Chilean actress Mariana De Girolamo that has gotten the spotlight for her breakout performance in Pablo Larrain’s Ema. Ravely reviewed, she faces stiff competition from Scarlett Johansson, but she’s still firmly in the driver’s seat for the Volpi Cup win.
VOLPI CUP FOR BEST ACTOR
Should win: Joaquin Phoenix – Joker or Mark Rylance – Waiting For The Barbarians. Joaquin Phoenix’s near-undeniable take on the popular DC Comics criminal mastermind and Mark Rylance’s good-hearted, gentle and profoundly dignified Magistrate are some of the best acting I’ve seen in the last few years, and they deserve every accolade they can get.
Will win: Jean Dujardin – J’Accuse. Polanski’s Dreyfus affair film has received substantial support from European critics that I have a strong feeling will translate into the jury. Despite Lucrecia Martel’s annoyance at the Polish director’s inclusion in the Competition lineup, she might be more open to recognizing the film for awards that won’t call for Polanski’s direct involvement, and Dujardin’s splendid performance fits the bill as a hand does a glove.
Should win: Roman Polanski – J’Accuse. On a pure cinematic level, Roman Polanski’s direction is indeed awards-worthy. Combining a fairly standard procedural drama with the atmospheric retelling of one of France’s most infamous cases of miscarriage of justice, Polanski manages to make J’Accuse not just a compelling history lesson, but also a dark cautionary tale about our times.
Will win: Vaclav Marhoul – The Painted Bird. Based on a book that was deemed unfilmable, Czech director Marhoul has managed to make a supremely powerful film that has shocked and polarized critics and fans.
GRAND JURY PRIZE
Should win: Joker. Incendiary as only some movies can be, Joker has been the event of the festival since day 1. It was so anticipated that even the jury, eager to watch the origin story on Batman’s most famous rival, showed up (late) at the first press screening. Political, visionary, exciting, polarizing, sinister, disturbing, intoxicating, Todd Phillips’ Joker is already one of the films of the year.
Will win: About Endlessness.
Should win: About Endlessness. Roy Andersson’s new masterpiece of tableaux vivants is an affecting work of humanity by the Swedish director. Lauded by critics and masterfully made, it would be a perfect pick for the top prize… if Mr. Andersson hadn’t already won five years ago with a similar film, A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence.
Will win: Martin Eden. Pietro Marcello’s original take on Jack London’s famous novel has won hearts at the Lido since the first press screening. Superbly acted by a cast led by Luca Marinelli, this lyrical tale of love and dreams has the right mix of timely political discourse, impeccable period setting and sentimental storytelling to topple the competition and win the coveted Leone D’Oro.