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Joaquin Phoenix, Anderson Win Venice Trophies for ‘The Master’

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Photographer: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images via Bloomberg

Joaquin Phoenix at the premiere of "Reservation Road." in Beverly Hills, California. The actor performs opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master."

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Photographer: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images via Bloomberg

Joaquin Phoenix at the premiere of "Reservation Road." in Beverly Hills, California. The actor performs opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master." Close

Joaquin Phoenix at the premiere of "Reservation Road." in Beverly Hills, California. The actor performs opposite... Read More

Source: Venicle Film Festival via Bloomberg.

Actress Cho Min-Soo in a scene from "Pieta," directed by Korean Kim Ki-Duk, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival. Close

Actress Cho Min-Soo in a scene from "Pieta," directed by Korean Kim Ki-Duk, which won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Photographer: Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images via Bloomberg

Philip Seymour Hoffman at an HBO Emmy after party in West Hollywood, California. Hoffman stars in "The Master," opposite Joaquin Phoenix, one of the movies being shown at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. He was joint winner of the best actor award. Close

Philip Seymour Hoffman at an HBO Emmy after party in West Hollywood, California. Hoffman stars in "The Master,"... Read More

Source: Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg.

"The Master" director Paul Thomas Anderson (left) gestures to actor Joaquin Phoenix during the shoot. The film was in the official competition at the Venice Film Festival and took several of the top awards for Anderson and Phoenix. A scene from "The Master." Paul Thomas Anderson's film is being shown in Venice. Close

"The Master" director Paul Thomas Anderson (left) gestures to actor Joaquin Phoenix during the shoot. The film was in... Read More

Source: Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg

Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams as an employee and her plagiarizing mentor in Brian De Palma's "Passion." The film got its world premiere at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. Close

Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams as an employee and her plagiarizing mentor in Brian De Palma's "Passion." The film... Read More

Source: Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg

Director Brian De Palma on set during the shoot of his new movie, "Passion." The erotic thriller starring Rachel McAdams was in the official competition at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. Close

Director Brian De Palma on set during the shoot of his new movie, "Passion." The erotic thriller starring Rachel... Read More

Photographer: Farah Nayeri/Bloomberg.

Actress Olga Kurylenko, an ex-model and James Bond girl, signs autographs at the Venice Film Festival news conference for Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." The film was in the festival competition. Close

Actress Olga Kurylenko, an ex-model and James Bond girl, signs autographs at the Venice Film Festival news conference... Read More

Source: Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg

Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams in Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder," his follow-up to "The Tree of Life." The movie was in the competition at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. Close

Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams in Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder," his follow-up to "The Tree of Life." The movie... Read More

Photographer: Farah Nayeri/Bloomberg

Spike Lee speaks following the world premiere of his two-hour documentary, "Bad 25," on the making of Michael Jackson's "Bad," outside the official competition at the Venice Film Festival. The album was released 25 years ago on Aug. 31, 2012. Close

Spike Lee speaks following the world premiere of his two-hour documentary, "Bad 25," on the making of Michael... Read More

Photographer: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. pop star Michael Jackson. Close

U.S. pop star Michael Jackson.

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Spike Lee against the levee wall on the set of his movie, "If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise," in New Orleans. Lee also debuted a documentary about the late Michael Jackson during the Venice Film Festival 2012. Close

Spike Lee against the levee wall on the set of his movie, "If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise," in New... Read More

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Susan Sarandon is a runaway anti-Vietnam-war activist in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep." Close

Susan Sarandon is a runaway anti-Vietnam-war activist in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep."

Source: Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg

Shia LaBeouf is an intrepid reporter in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," a film about a group of anti-Vietnam-war activists on the run from the FBI. The film was screening out of the official competition at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. Close

Shia LaBeouf is an intrepid reporter in Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," a film about a group of... Read More

Source: Venice Film Festival via Bloomberg

Robert Redford in "The Company You Keep." The movie, starring and directed by Redford, also stars Shia LaBeouf. Close

Robert Redford in "The Company You Keep." The movie, starring and directed by Redford, also stars Shia LaBeouf.

“The Master,” about an American guru and his unruly disciple, swept up three trophies at the Venice Film Festival, as director Paul Thomas Anderson and co- stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix all won.

The best-film award, or Golden Lion, went to Korean Kim Ki- Duk’s “Pieta,” about the encounter between a young loan shark and a woman claiming to be his mother. Appearing on stage to pick up his prize, Kim, wearing his long gray hair pulled up, broke into song in Korean to voice his gratitude.

“The Master” awards were collected at the red-carpet closing ceremony on Sept. 8 by a puffy-eyed, ill-shaven Hoffman, who said he had just stepped off a long-haul flight.

“I still have crust on my eyes from the sleep on the plane, and I put this suit on in a bathroom, so please don’t judge,” joked the actor, wearing glasses, a navy suit, and a loose tie.

Describing Phoenix as “a life force in this film,” he said, “I kind of rode that life force, and that was my performance! It was really riding his life force, because it was something that was untamable.”

In the film, Phoenix plays a 1950s U.S. Navy veteran named Freddie Quell who heads home to start a new life. Too uncontrollable to hold down jobs as a portrait photographer and a farm hand, he hops on a riverboat one night and finds a group of people idolizing a charismatic master (Hoffman).

Hubbard’s Church

Before long, he joins the cult, which director Anderson said he modeled after L. Ron Hubbard’s Church of Scientology. Yet he still operates on a combination of rage and lust that not even the Master can temper.

Venice’s best-actress prize went to Hadas Yaron for her role as a young Hasidic Jew made to marry her widowed brother- in-law in “Fill the Void,” a first feature by Rama Burshtein (herself a member of the Hasidic community). It was one of the strongest of the 18 movies competing for the Golden Lion this year.

Steering the nine-person jury was “Heat” director Michael Mann. Fellow jurors included performance artist Marina Abramovic, actresses Samantha Morton and Laetitia Casta, and “Gomorrah” director Matteo Garrone.

Venice 2012 was characterized by pouring rain and a slimmed-down lineup under a new director. The headline out-of- competition event was Robert Redford’s solid “The Company You Keep,” about a group of anti-Vietnam-war activists who are tracked down decades later by a reporter (Shia LaBeouf).

Another out-of-competition highlight was Spike Lee’s “Bad 25,” an entertaining documentary on the making of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” album.

Malick’s Model

Two big-name U.S. directors in the official contest disappointed the critics. Terrence Malick, whose “The Tree of Life” won the Cannes Film Festival last year, presented a troubled love story called “To the Wonder” starring Ben Affleck and ex-model Olga Kurylenko, best known for her role as a James Bond girl in “Quantum of Solace.”

Brian De Palma, director of “Scarface” and “The Untouchables,” let down the reviewers with “Passion,” a Berlin-based thriller about two female advertising executives at each other’s throats (Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace).

Even Anderson’s “The Master” sputtered after a promising start. Lavishly shot in the extra-wide 70-millimeter format, it featured spectacular opening scenes with Phoenix. Yet the movie soon lost its magic and mystery, as the myth of the Master was quickly debunked.

Phoenix displayed bad-boy behavior at the movie’s news conference. Looking uncomfortable before a sea of reporters and cameras, he wriggled, lit up a cigarette, briefly left the room, and basically refused to answer questions.

One other visually striking in-competition U.S. film was Harmony Korine’s bikinis-and-machine-guns “Spring Breakers,” about four college girls who escape to Florida during spring break and get caught up with a silver-toothed gangster (James Franco).

To contact the writer on the story: Farah Nayeri in Venice at farahn@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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