‘Joker’, starring Joaquin Phoenix, has been awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

The film had received an eight-minute standing ovation at its premiere in the Italian city last Saturday.

Directed by Todd Phillips, the movie explores the origins of the iconic villain from the Batman universe. The story takes place in the early 80s in Gotham City. Arthur Fleck is a poor, mentally-ill clown who turns to a life of crime.

Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz also star.

Critics have been enthused about Phoenix’s performance in the movie, with many predicting it could lead to the actor winning his first Oscar.

Philip De Demlyen, a critic for Time Out, called Phoenix’s interpretation “magnetic” while Jack King at GQ Magazine wrote of the movie: “Much of what shouldn’t work are sold in entirely by Phoenix’s performance; if Joker ultimately proves anything it’s that he’s the best actor of his generation.”

Phillips, 48, told reporters after his win that he and Phoenix “couldn’t be prouder of this movie. We worked very hard on it and faced, believe it or not, a lot of resistance.”

“I’m just thrilled that everybody here seems to understand what we were trying to do,” he said.

The other awards went to:

Silver Lion – Grand Prix of the Jury: ‘J’ACCUSE’ by Roman Polanski (France, Italy)

Silver Lion – Award for the Best Director: Roy Anderson for ‘OM DET OÄNDLIGA (ABOUT ENDLESSNESS)’ (Sweden, Germany, Norway)

Cup Volpi for Best Female Interpretation: Ariane Ascaride in ‘Gloria Mundi’ by Robert Guédiguian (France, Italy)

Volpi Cup for Best Male Interpretation: Luca Marinelli in ‘Martin Eden’ by Pietro Marcello (Italy, France)

Best Screenplay: Yonfan for ‘JI yuan hao tai qi (n or .7 cherry lane) of Yonfan’ (Hong Kong SAR, China)

Special Jury Award: ‘The Mafia is no longer than one of a time’ by Franco Maresco (Italy)

Marcello Mastroianni Award to a Young Emerging Actor or Actress: Toby Wallace in ‘Babyteeth’ by Shannon Murphy (Australia)

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