The “Mostra Internazionale d’Arte Cinematografica” in Venice is the world’s first film festival, first held in 1932 as part of the Venice Biennale. The event’s importance has not diminished since then, and the film festival has once again been a star-studded affair, with Lifetime Achievement Award winner Catherine Deneuve, Adam Sandler, jury president Julianne Moore, Harry Styles and Colin Farrell, whose film is perhaps the most likely to win this year’s top prize. We have selected some of the most notable Golden Lion films of the last 20 years…
The Return is about two young brothers and their father. The father returns to the family after twelve years away and takes the boys on a trip. Strangely, inexplicably strict, it is not known what his intentions are, where he came from, what he has been through. The younger son rebels against him, while the older tries to follow the determined father. Yet, despite the strictness, a fatherly love emerges, but the story ends in tragedy.
In Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, the protagonists are two cowboys who guard a flock of sheep together on Brokeback Mountain in Wyoming. Performing a common task, outwitting a common “enemy” and living in uncivilized conditions bring the two men close together. This camaraderie and friendship of comradeship fits perfectly into the fearless, hip-firing cowboy “legend” that is considered a symbol of manhood, but what is very much out of place in these clichés is that the two young men eventually find each other physically and spiritually. Ang Lee’s film was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, 3 of which it won.
In Swedish director Roy Andersson’s satire, A pigeon sat on a branch to wonder about existence, two travelling salesmen are led through a very strange world. From the point of view of a pigeon perched on a tree branch, we are treated to the most banal scenes of everyday life. Reminiscent of sad clowns, the pair of agents are the only constant linking the disparate stories – a grotesque comedy in which the worlds of past, present, and dream merge into an inextricable web of human existence.
In 2018, for the first time, the same film won the Golden Lion and the Oscar. It was Guillermo del Toro’s Touch of Water… In 1962, Elisa, a mute cleaning woman, works in a secret US government laboratory where she befriends a strange aquatic creature who is being held against its will. Together with her friends, they decide to help the creature escape from captivity.
The mentally ill Arthur Fleck (Oscar-winning performance by Joaquin Phoenix) works as a clown and dreams of becoming a famous stand-up comedian, but his illness prevents him from doing so. When he gets beaten up by street kids, he gets a gun from a colleague to defend himself. The anti-hero Joker is born, and the city is thrown into chaos. Warner Bros. chiefs originally wanted Martin Scorsese in the director’s chair and his favourite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, to play the Joker. Phoenix’s performance was brilliant, and director Todd Phillips was no slouch either, who, along with Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980) and The King of Comedy (1982), also credited the comic book classic Murder Joke as inspiration for the film.