VENICE, Italy – American director Todd Phillips’ “Joker,” a film based on DC Comics characters, was awarded on Saturday the Venice Film Festival’s top honor – the Golden Lion award.
This dark fictional character study tells the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man “struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society,” according to the synopsis on the festival’s Web site.
“A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night ... but finds the joke always seems to be on him,” prompting him to make a “bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events.”
The film “J’Accuse” (An Officer and a Spy) a film by French-Polish film director Roman Polanski, who remains a fugitive from United States justice on statutory rape charges dating from 1977, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize, considered the festival’s second-most prestigious honor.
That picture tells the story of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, a French army officer of Jewish faith who was put on trial for allegedly spying for Germany and sentenced to life imprisonment on Devil’s Island off French Guiana.
Polanski, who pleaded guilty in the US in 1977 to having unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl named Samantha Gailey (now Samantha Geimer, who is in her mid-50s), reached that plea deal after five other more serious charges had been dropped.
But he subsequently fled to Europe before his sentencing because he feared the judge would overrule the plea bargain.
The festival’s Web site quotes Polanski – a director of partial Jewish ancestry – as saying of his film about the Dreyfus Affair, which ended with the artillery officer’s complete exoneration, that it is a subject that has “been on my mind for many years.”
“In this vast scandal, probably the greatest of the late 19th century, judicial error, miscarriage of justice and anti-Semitism intertwine.”
The third-leading Venice Film Festival prize, the Silver Lion for Best Direction, was conferred on Sweden’s Roy Andersson for his picture “About Endlessness.”
The two Volpi Cup awards for best actor and best actress went to French actress Ariane Ascaride for her role in Robert Guediguian’s “Gloria Mundi” and to Italian actor Luca Marinelli for his interpretation of the character Martin Eden in Pietro Marcello’s like-named film adaptation of that novel by American author Jack London (1876-1916).