a golden Lion in the shape of sex education kills love

Yorgos Lanthimos brandishes his Golden Lion. GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE / REUTERS

The Greek director’s film, with Emma Stone as a submissive creature before emancipating herself, won the supreme award on the Lido. A flashy and simplistic fantasy-erotic tale. In theaters January 17, 2024.

The jury of the 80e Venice Film Festival, chaired by American director Damien Chazelle, did not defy the predictions. Poor Creatures, by Yorgos Lanthimos, was favored by festival-goers and critics since its presentation at the start of the competition. He won the Golden Lion, consolidating the status of the Greek filmmaker, welcomed in triumph on the lagoon in 2018 with The Favorite (Grand Jury Prize), with Olivia Colman and already Emma Stone, one of the main absentees from this edition due to strike in Hollywood.

In a few films (Canine, The Lobster, Killing of the sacred deer), Lanthimos has earned a reputation as a misanthrope, adept at discomfort and sarcasm. Poor Creatures apparently plays in the same league, but turns out to be much less subversive than it claims to be. It is inspired by a novel by the Scottish writer Alasdar Gray. It features Emma Stone (Bella Baxter) as a guinea pig prisoner of a deranged scientist – he has replaced the young woman’s brain with that of her unborn child. A stammering and capricious baby, Baxter is freed by a lecherous lawyer who introduces her to the pleasures of the flesh. Between two somersaults, the beautiful ignorant reads books on the advice of Hannah Schygulla. His childish language becomes more and more sophisticated. But her emancipation is essentially achieved through sex practiced in a brothel in Paris. Baxter is reminiscent of Barbie discovering the Real World, but more trashy and nymphomaniac.

Let the detractors of the male gaze rest assured, nothing was done without the consent of Emma Stone. On the contrary, the American actress is a producer of the film and that is an understatement to say that she gives of herself. For a Hollywood star of her stature, she doesn’t shy away from nudity. In all positions and in hideous digital settings. Despite its debauchery of buttocks, feminism with little feet.

Political prices

The Grand Jury Prize goes to Evil Does Not Exist, by Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. A sober film, without ostentatious effects, from a prolific Japanese filmmaker and now covered in awards. The author of the superb Drive My Car (Screenplay Prize at Cannes and Oscar for best international film in 2021) changes gear by imagining a lumberjack father and his daughter in the countryside near Tokyo. The upcoming installation of a glamping (glamorous campsite) is mobilizing the inhabitants of the village, worried about the arrival of city dwellers in search of nature. Disconcerting for a long time (environmental drama, satire of bobos?), the enigmatic, even abstruse ending ends up leaving you perplexed.

More political, the directing prize awarded to Matteo Garrone for Me, Captain and the Special Prize to Agnieszka Holland for Green Border. Two feature films that depict the tragedy of migrants. The transalpine director follows the odyssey of two young Senegalese on their way to Italy. The Polish director follows the fate of a family of Syrian refugees, an Afghan English teacher and a young border guard between Poland and Belarus.

More insignificant, the American actor Peter Sarsgaard won the prize for best male performer at the for his role of a man suffering from dementia, opposite Jessica Chastain, in Memory by the Mexican Michel Franco. Cailee Spaeny is rewarded for her role as Elvis Presley’s wife in Priscilla by Sofia Coppola. If the chronicle of Mrs. Presley unhappy in her golden prison of Graceland is not overwhelming, the young American does not deserve it.

More scandalous, the Screenplay Prize awarded to El Conde, by the Chilean Pablo Larrain. A heavy and vain satire which imagines the dictator Augusto Pinochet as a vampire spanning the ages. The worst Netflix film in the competition, which included several (The Killer by David Fincher, Maestro by Bradley Cooper), not great but not as poor as this sad farce.

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