“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 Roman Polanski controversially taking second prize.
It is the first superhero film ever to get this kind of arthouse 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 lift the best picture Academy Award.
US 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”.