Emma Stone’s Graphic ‘Poor Things’ Sex Scenes and Tour-De-Force Performance Make Venice Erupt in 8-Minute Standing Ovation for Yorgos Lanthimos

“Poor Things,” the oddest movie to premiere at this year’s Venice Film Festival, landed the biggest standing ovation so far. On Friday night, Yorgos Lanthimos’ drama, starring Emma Stone as a woman who finds her way in European society after a series of tragic events (and a scientific intervention), received an eight-minute standing ovation at its world premiere.

“Genius! We love you! Yorgos!” the crowd chanted at the auteur director behind “The Favourite” and “The Lobster.”

Lanthimos lapped up the love and attention, as he walked down the balcony of the Sala Grande Theatre, shaking hands with his fans and signing autographs.

One can imagine the applause would have gone even longer if Stone, the star of the film, had been able to attend. None of the actors in “Poor Things” made it to Venice due to the SAG-AFTRA strike. Lathimos walked the carpet on his own at the beginning of the night, as Venice has been quieter this year without as much A-list glamour.

The director received a standing ovation before the film even started when he took his seat. But not everyone loved “Poor Things.” A stream of theatergoers bolted for the exit during some of the racier scenes. The movie features graphic and sometimes violent sex involving Stone’s character, Bella, as she declared her independence from a lackluster relationship by becoming a prostitute in Paris.

Lanthimos had tipped Venice audiences off about the film’s explicit sex scenes earlier in the day at the “Poor Things” press conference, where he told journalists that Stone did not hesitate to give the scenes her all.

 “It was very important for me to not make a film that would be prudish, because that would be like completely betraying the main character,” Lanthimos said. “We had to be confident Emma had to have no shame about her body, nudity, engaging in those scenes and she understood that right away.”

He added: “As soon as I started saying something about sex, she would say: ‘yes,’ of course, it’s Bella. We will do what we need to do.’”

The film has been met with rave reviews out of Venice, with Variety film critic Guy Lodge hailing it as a “delicious coming-of-age story like no other.” He went on to call Stone’s performance “astonishing.”

Based on the novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray, “Poor Things” is a riff on the classic Frankenstein story and stars Stone as a woman who is brought back to life by a scientist (Willem Dafoe) through the use of a child’s brain. The naive Bella come of age all over again, a process that is complicated when she runs off with a debauched lawyer (Mark Ruffalo). Ramy Youssef and Jerrod Carmichael also star in the film.

“Poor Things,” which debuted in competition at Venice, marks a reunion between Lanthimos and Stone after “The Favourite,” which also world premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won the Volpi Cup for best actress for Olivia Colman’s performance. Colman went on to win the Oscar for best actress. Stone was nominated for supporting actress, one of 10 Oscar nominations “The Favourite” received. “The Favourite” co-screenwriter Tony McNamara penned “Poor Things.”

“Poor Things” is set to open in theaters Dec. 8 from Searchlight Pictures. The film will next screen at the Telluride Film Festival and the New York Film Festival.

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