‘Joker’ wows the crowd in Venice

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‘Joker’ wows the crowd in Venice

“Joker,” a daring take on the comic book villain starring Joaquin Phoenix, won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice film festival Saturday with the controversial Roman Polanski taking second prize.

It is the first superhero film ever to get this kind of art house kudos, and could now be on its way to Oscar glory. The last two Venice winners - “Roma” and “The Shape of Water” - have gone on to win the best picture Academy Award.

U.S. director Todd Phillips - best known up to now for the slapstick comedy “Very Bad Trip” - paid tribute to Phoenix’s intense performance, saying he was “the fiercest, bravest and most open-minded lion that I know.”

“Thank you for trusting me with your insane talents,” he said.

The movie, which The Guardian had described as “one of the boldest Hollywood productions for some time,” has already sparked a heated debate.

And there were audible gasps when French-Polish director Polanski - a pariah in Hollywood after his rape conviction - was handed the Grand Prix second prize for his Dreyfus Affair drama, “An Officer and a Spy.”

Within hours of the “Joker” premiere, some warned that Phoenix’s full-throttle portrait of a needy, embittered clown who lives with his mother could empower “incels,” or involuntary celibates - the angry, misogynist young men who have been blamed for so much far-right and white supremacist violence.

Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson worried that it was “exhilarating in the most prurient of ways, a snuff film about the death of order, about the rot of a governing ethos.”

He feared that it “may be irresponsible propaganda for the very men it pathologises.”

But most critics disagreed, with Variety’s Owen Gleiberman saying Phoenix has remade Batman’s arch-enemy as a “method psycho, a troublemaker so intense in his cuckoo hostility that even as you’re gawking at his violence, you still feel his pain.”

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