When the awards were presented in Venice on Saturday, it turned out to be a good night for Netflix and westerns. And though criticism has rained down on the festival for including only one film directed by a woman in competition—criticism coming not just from critics and industry insiders but also from jury president Guillermo del Toro—Saturday ended in victory for the lineup’s lone female director and two movies centered on female leads.
Accepting the festival’s top prize, the Golden Lion, for Roma, director Alfonso Cuarón thanked his three lead actresses “for your courage, generosity, and immense respect in portraying the women who raised me.” Cuarón shot Roma himself in vivid black and white, conjuring the titular Mexico City neighborhood he grew up in during the 1970s. Saturday happens to have been the birthday of the real-life maid and nanny at the center of the film—“What a present!” Cuarón exclaimed. Cleo, as she’s named in the film, is portrayed by non-professional actress Yalitza Aparicio, and in his overview of Venice’s seventy-fifth edition for the Guardian, Jonathan Romney argues that her “candid, beautifully modified performance was one of the outstanding human factors of this festival.” We put together an overview of initial critical reaction to Roma last week, and we’ll take a closer look when the New York Film Festival presents the film as its Centerpiece. For now, note that Roma is screening in Toronto this week before heading to San Sebastián and London, and Netflix will begin streaming it in December.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, which will open the NYFF later this month, has won a Silver Lion, the Grand Jury Prize, as well as a best actress award for Olivia Colman. She plays Queen Anne, who ruled over Great Britain and Ireland during the War of the Spanish Succession in the early eighteenth century. In The Favourite, she’s also carrying on a secret affair with her advisor, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and when young Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the court, she begins scheming to steal away the Queen’s affections. Writing for Slant, Paul O’Callaghan suggests that The Favourite is “perhaps the most playfully subversive costume drama since Whit Stillman’s similarly verbose Love & Friendship, though this is a considerably racier affair, laden as it is with eye-wateringly explicit exchanges.” But the “biggest revelation may be that Lanthimos treats his characters here with a degree of compassion, rather than regard them with his usual smirking indifference.”