Damien Chazelle’s highly anticipated post-“Whiplash” feature, a Hollywood-centric musical with the adorable moniker “La La Land,” will open the 73rd Venice Film Festival. The Ryan Gosling- and Emma Stone-starring film will have its world premiere on August 31, and will be part of the competition slate of the fest, which runs through September 10.
The film, billed by Variety as “a tribute to the Golden Age of American musicals, also stars John Legend and Chazelle’s “Whiplash” Oscar winner J.K. Simmons. The musical centers on Gosling’s character, a jazz pianist, who falls in love with Stone’s character, an aspiring actress. Per the film’s official synopsis, their budding romance is threatened by outside forces and passions and, “as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.”
The film is already considered to be an early awards contender, thanks to its starry cast and the heat on Chazelle coming off three Oscar wins for “Whiplash,” only his second feature. A spot at Venice is a major coup for the film and only furthers its place as one to watch come awards time.
Recent Venice openers include Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Best Picture-winning “Birdman,” which opened in competition in 2014and Alfonso Cuarón’s critically acclaimed “Gravity” (which won seven Oscars, including Best Director).
Opening at Venice also does not preclude the film from hitting other major fall festivals, including Telluride and Toronto, which are also fertile breeding grounds for awards buzz.
Of the decision to open the festival with the film, Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera commented that the film “does not merely reinvent the musical genre, it gives it a brand new start.” He added, “If ‘Whiplash’ was the revelation of a new filmmaker, ‘La La Land’ is his definitive, albeit precocious, consecration among the great directors of Hollywood’s new firmament.”
Chazelle said in a statement, “On behalf of the cast and crew of ‘La La Land,’ I am both thrilled and honored by the festival’s invitation. It is deeply humbling for us to join the company of their previous opening-night films, and we could not be more excited to share our movie with the audience in Venice.”
“La La Land” will hit limited release on December 2, followed by an expansion on December 16.