VENICE, Sept. 9 — “Poor Little Things,” a gothic, sex comedy directed by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
The British-produced film, starring Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo, wowed audiences with its hilarious story of a woman resuscitated from suicide by a mad doctor who replaces her brain with the brain of her unborn child.
Childish but with the body of an adult, Stone’s character Bella Baxter becomes increasingly independent and inspired by her sexual experimentation, embarking on a journey of self-discovery through a surreal version of 19th-century Europe.
“The main character is Bella Baxter, an incredible creature, and she wouldn’t exist without Emma Stone, another incredible creature,” said Lanthimos, whose previous films include “The Favorite” and “The Lobster.”
Venice marks the start of awards season and regularly produces major Oscar favorites, with eight of the last 11 best director awards going to films that debut here.
The festival’s top acting awards went to two American stars – Cailee Spaeny, who played Elvis Presley’s ex-wife in the biopic Priscilla, and Peter Sarsgaard, who starred in the gritty family drama Memento.
Second place in the Silver Lion category went to “There Is No Evil,” a mysterious rural drama from Japanese director Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the only Asian entry among the 23 films vying for the top prize.
Saturday’s ceremony capped an 11-day movie marathon that brought many of the best films to Venice, but there were far fewer stars than usual as a long Hollywood actors’ strike prevented many celebrities from coming to promote their work.
Actors and writers are demanding that streaming sites and movie studios improve their contracts and put restrictions on the use of artificial intelligence.
Receiving the award, Sarsgaard said AI must be curbed, warning that the consequences of the problem go far beyond Hollywood.
“This sacred experience of being human will be transferred to the machines and the eight billionaires who own them. So if we lose this battle in the strike, our industry will be the first of many to fall,” he said.
Other prizes awarded in Venice included a special jury prize for “Green Border,” a harrowing film about migrants trapped on the Polish-Belarusian border, directed by Polish woman Agnieszka Holland.
Best director went to Italian Matteo Garrone for I, Captain, another gripping migrant film that follows two Senegalese teenagers as they cross Africa in hopes of reaching Europe. The film’s young star Seydoux Sarr won the award for best new actor or actress.
Best Screenplay went to Guillermo Calderon and Pablo Larraín for their script for “El Conde,” a satirical film about Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.