Tonight, in a star-studded ceremony at the Palazzo del Cinema, Laura Poitras’s searing documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed took home the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival. A surprise winner in a crowded list of contenders—and the rare example of a documentary taking home the top prize at a major festival—the film follows American photographer Nan Goldin, who famously chronicled New York’s downtown underbelly in the 1980s, in her recent role as one of the most visible and outspoken activists campaigning for action against the opioid crisis.
Since founding the advocacy group P.A.I.N. in 2017, Goldin has tirelessly sought justice for those whose lives have been affected by the Sackler family’s promotion of Oxycontin through their company Purdue Pharma, a journey that Poitras—who previously won acclaim for her documentaries on Edward Snowden and the American occupation of Iraq—charts with a powerful sensitivity. The Silver Lion, meanwhile, went to the powerful courtroom drama Saint Omer, acclaimed French documentarian Alice Diop’s first foray into narrative filmmaking.
In the acting categories, some big names took home the top awards, among them Cate Blanchett for Todd Field’s razor-sharp psychological drama Tár, which has already seen the actor hotly tipped for an Oscar nod. Playing a celebrity classical music conductor who becomes embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal, Blanchett gave one of the week’s most celebrated performances—as did Colin Farrell, who took home the best actor award for his turn in Martin McDonagh’s black comedy The Banshees of Inisherin. (McDonagh himself won the prize for best screenplay, while Luca Guadagnino was named best director for his cannibal romance Bones and All.)
This proved to be an especially exciting and high-profile year for the festival. Appearances by Greta Gerwig and Adam Driver in support of White Noise and Blanchett for Tár set a tone that was ratcheted up further in the following days by the throngs of fans who gathered on the Lido to catch a glimpse of Timothée Chalamet, one of the stars of Guadagnino’s Bones and All. (Offering one of the festival’s most daring fashion moments in a backless, blood-red Haider Ackermann jumpsuit, Chalamet made sure not to disappoint.)
Perhaps the most talked-about moments of the festival, however, came courtesy of Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling, the Florence Pugh and Harry Styles-starring psychological thriller that has been swept into a maelstrom of internet controversy thanks to a series of messages leaked by Shia LaBeouf, who was cast in the film before being replaced by Styles, and rumors of a feud between Pugh and Wilde. (Those rumors were heavily stoked by Pugh’s eleventh-hour arrival, as well as clips of her sipping on an Aperol Spritz and swanning around the city in Valentino, looking firmly unbothered by the drama, that immediately went viral.)
The final days of the festival, meanwhile, were dominated by the premiere of Andrew Dominik’s warped Marilyn Monroe biopic Blonde, which has been the subject of intense Hollywood chatter since as far back as January, when it received a rare NC-17 rating. Its experimental structure and graphic depictions of sexual violence may have divided critics, but Ana de Armas’s transformative performance as Monroe emerged as one of the week’s most acclaimed. Her glamorous looks during the photo calls and on the red carpet, all loosely inspired by Monroe herself, were a joy to behold—and capped the closing days of this year’s glittering festival in style.