Gravity gets a raptuous welcome as Venice’s opening film…and starts early Oscar talk.

What was the remarkable sound at Venice’s 70th opening last night? No, not thousands of mini bottles of Moet popping or Clooney’s speedboat, I’m talking about the chatter and buzz that signals the start of awards season.

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity opened the festival to universal acclaim — and early Oscar talk. Clear one of the Best Picture nomination slots now.

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock strolled the red carpet with director Cuaron and producer David Heyman – all perhaps with even bigger smiles than usual given the across-the-board rapturous reviews the film had received earlier in the day. Gravity offers strong performances, a story that’s not been seen before, and some amazingly thrilling 3D action in space. It is genuinely edge-of-your-seat viewing from beginning to end.

Warner Bros has to also be thrilled with the response, setting the film up for both potential commercial success and awards season attention.

What a triumph, not only for the filmmakers but also for Venice artistic director Alberto Barbera who scored one of the best opening-night films in festival history. And it also welcomes back Cuaron, a Venice regular who was here in 2001 with Y tu mama tambien and again in 2006 with Children Of Men.

The film set the mood for a lively night on the Lido. The opening ceremony included welcoming the starry and cinephile jurors on stage, with a standing ovation for jury president Bernardo Bertolucci.

Bertolucci and Orizzonti jury president Paul Schrader also screened their short films that are part of the Venezia 70-Future Reloaded project, which invited 70 directors to each make a short film from 60 to 90 seconds.

The after party at the Hotel Excelsior included the aforementioned Moet and a lavish buffet of Italian delicacies.

Gravity next heads to Tulluride, which has just unveiled its line-up, before blasting off to Toronto.

Wendy Mitchell is editor of Screen International