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Damien Chazelle’s First Man to Open 75th Venice Film Festival

Every year the Oscar season seems to be getting longer. While it might have once seemed silly to talk about awards handed out in March before the year runs out, these days the battle line is drawn as far back as late August to include not only the guilds, the Globes, the critics groups but also the entire fall festival circuit. And after such heavy-hitters as GRAVITY, BIRDMAN and LA LA LAND all bowed on the opening night of the Venice Film Festival, that date has become the unofficial kickoff of the 6-month (!) hunt for the golden statuettes.

For its 75th edition, that very special opening night slot is reserved for Oscar winner Damien Chazelle’s space drama FIRST MAN, as just revealed by Variety.

The news came unusually late this year (the official announcement is expected tomorrow), suggesting intense behind-the-scenes wrangling between Venice, Telluride and Toronto, all taking place within two weeks of each other and known to battle for exclusive premieres of coveted titles. And there’s certainly no lack of drool-worthy films to fight over this time around. In the past weeks, A STAR IS BORN, SUSPIRIA, THE FAVOURITE and Orson Welles’ THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND have all been name-checked as likely Venice openers.

Now that that honor has gone to Chazelle, these films could still all very well end up premiering or at least screening in Venice (the full lineup will be revealed on July 25). Considering the many high-profile films that did not make Cannes for logistical, political or strategic reasons, the Venice roster is expected to be especially strong this year.

As a reminder, those that supposedly “missed” Cannes included:

  • ROMA (Cuarón)
  • PETERLOO (Leigh)
  • NORWAY (Greengrass)
  • RADEGUND (Malick)
  • THE SISTERS BROTHERS (Audiard)
  • HIGH LIFE (Denis)
  • SUNSET (Nemes)
  • VISION (Kawase)
  • THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONOVAN (Dolan)
  • NON FICTION (Assayas)
  • DOMINO (De Palma)
  • WHERE LIFE IS BORN (Reygadas)

They join a list of other potential candidates that could have major impact on the upcoming awards season:

  • IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Jenkins)
  • WIDOWS (McQueen)
  • BEAUTIFUL BOY (van Groeningen)
  • OLD MAN AND THE GUN (Lowery)
  • AT ETERNITY´S GATE (Schnabel)
  • BOY ERASED (Edgerton)

Which of these do you think will be Venice / Telluride / Toronto-bound? Or even New York? And does the road to Best Picture start here for FIRST MAN? Last year’s opener DOWNSIZING turned out to be a non-starter, but the eventual BP winner THE SHAPE OF WATER made its world premiere on Lido the very next day. In any case, we shall be getting our first clues about some of the season’s biggest players in a week’s time.