ROME — U.S. director Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land,” starring Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend and J.K. Simmons, will be the opening film of the 73rd Venice Film Festival.
“La La Land,” a tribute to the Golden Age of American musicals, will world-premiere in competition from Venice on Aug. 31. The festival runs through Sept. 10.
Chazelle’s “Whiplash” won three Oscars in 2015, including a Best Supporting Actor statuette for Simmons.
In “La La Land” Gosling plays a jazz pianist, Emma Stone an aspiring actress. The pair fall in love but face difficulties as they become more successful. Chazelle directed from his own script.
The film is produced by Lionsgate in partnership with Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures, Marc Platt Productions. It will be released in the U.S. by Lionsgate on Dec. 2 in limited release and then expand wide on December 16.
“La La Land” is a film “that does not merely reinvent the musical genre, it gives it a brand new start,” Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera said in a statement. “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,” he added.
In separate news, the Venice Biennale, which is the fest’s parent organization, has announced that Barbera, whose mandate was up, has been reconfirmed as Venice artistic director for the next four years through 2020. The idea is to give stability to the fest, which has been plagued by fragmented leadership in the past.
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“La La Land” is Chazelle’s third feature, following “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” which he made as an undergraduate at Harvard, and “Whiplash.”
“On behalf of the cast and crew of ‘La La Land,’ I am both thrilled and honored by the festival’s invitation,” said Chazelle. “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.”
Venice opened last year with Balthasar Kormakur’s “Everest,” out of competition; with Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “Birdman,” in competition, in 2014; and with Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” out of competition, in 2013. Last year, “Spotlight” launched from Venice before going on to win two Oscars, including for best picture.
“La La Land” is already considered an early awards-season contender.
The festival described the film as “a modern take on the classic Hollywood romance, which is heightened by spectacular song-and-dance numbers, as two dreamers struggle to make ends meet while they pursue their passions in a city known for destroying hopes and breaking hearts.”
“Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, serves lattes to movie stars in between auditions, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, scrapes by playing cocktail piano gigs in dingy bars, but 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.”