VENICE — The 73rd Venice Film Festival kicked off on a decidedly positive note Wednesday with U.S. director Damien Chazelle’s Los Angeles-set musical “La La Land” premiering to nearly unanimous praise amid tightened security and a measure of somberness due to central Italy’s recent earthquake.
In solidarity with the quake’s nearly 300 victims, the fest’s customary beachside bash was cancelled.
Also during the opening ceremony, Polish New Wave pioneer Jerzy Skolimowski dedicated his Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to the town of Amatrice, which has been razed to the ground. The fest has started an earthquake relief fund to which “La La Land” producer and distributor Lionsgate made the first “generous contribution,” fest chief Alberto Barbera said.
The mood on the red carpet, however, was festive. Emma Stone strutted in a green and gold gown for paparazzi and the cheering crowd, to music from the film, which is screening in competition. The U.S. release of “La La Land” is set for Dec. 2.
Earlier in the day, Stone at the packed press conference underlined that the uplifting musical movie is “in no way cynical.”
“It’s about dreaming, and hoping, and working towards something to achieve something,” Stone said, adding that she thought “young people have fallen into a lot of cynicism” these days.
The 31-year-old Chazelle, who is the talk of Venice, kept a more modest media profile. Ryan Gosling, who is on the set of the untitled “Blade Runner” sequel in Hungary, was unable to attend.
Festgoers this year were pleasantly surprised by a new red cube-shaped 450-seat screening venue equipped with state-of-the art Dolby Surround 7.1., placed over the gigantic hole in the ground that had blighted fest grounds since 2011 — when construction of new permanent infrastructure was halted after layers of toxic asbestos were found.
But they also found anti-climactic road barriers on the Lido to prevent the possibility of a Nice-type attack as well as a robust presence of police and military personnel, and also more metal detectors.
“We have improved measures to protect the citadel of cinema,” said Paolo Baratta, who heads the Venice Biennale, the fest’s parent organisation, at the opening press conference. “This may cause inconveniences, but the goal is to guarantee maximum security,” he added.
The fest runs through Sept. 10.