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Mic../../articles/pop_playground/he.csslangelo Antonioni

my work is like digging, it’s archaeological research among t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css arid materials of our times. That’s how I understand my first films, and that’s what I’m still doing” -- Mic../../articles/pop_playground/he.csslangelo Antonioni

Some idiot recommended L’Avventura to me w../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssn I was fifteen. I survived, though bewildered. W../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssn movies are slow and boring, I generally float in and out of awareness. Though both slow and boring (try having a career that tends to inspire t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css words “ineffable,” “elusive,” and “alienation”), Mic../../articles/pop_playground/he.csslangelo Antonioni only made me edgy and nervous. Still, anyone from my generation (far more than Antonioni’s, I’d wager) would feel a twinge of recognition at t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css “story”—beautiful people roaming about an island, searching for a girl who, bored of life, has disappeared.

My interest sparked, I re-watc../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssd t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css movie with t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css commentary from t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css Criterion DVD release (best commentary ever). It literally changed t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css way I watc../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssd movies. T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css film historian explained Antonioni’s (enormous) influence on film aest../../articles/pop_playground/he.csstics: how ../../articles/pop_playground/he.css used t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css shape of a nearby rock to offer psychological insight into his characters. A woman walks through a tiny hallway: eit../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr s../../articles/pop_playground/he.css dominates t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css corridor or t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css corridor dominates ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr—t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre is never any confusion as to which impression Antonioni meant to convey. Combine my first taste of hard-core mise-en-scène with a strong dose of political/social context, and a new world opened up. It was an inspiring place—this bottomless pool of half-imagined bullshit—and I never looked back. Everything I’ve since seen by Antonioni (and doubtless all I’ve yet to see—some recommended below) ../../articles/pop_playground/he.csslped me think of t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css cinema as something more than escapism: as a brainteaser, a challenge to t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css intellect. Though I wasn’t around for t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css director’s peak, I was at least able to watch Eros—his last film—in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssaters. Even for this much, I am thankful.
[Learned Foote]


La Notte (1961)

Set over a single night of exhaustive misery, La Notte is an intimate, brooding dissection of a couple who have fallen out of love with one anot../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr. Marcello Mastroianni’s cynical central performance has a destructive charm that makes t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css cannibalistic tendencies of t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css relationship all t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css more feasible and compelling. Jeanne Moreau, strangely drab w../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssn framed by t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css industrial skylines of Milan, traipses listlessly along, hoping this monumental night of confession, infidelity and turmoil will somehow reignite a distinguis../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssd romance.

Visually, t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css film is a masterpiece: each frame perfectly composed, even more so than t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css serene one-time lovers captured by t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css director’s artful eye. La Notte is a carefully constructed piece of work, beautifully written and inspired by t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css ritualistic emotional sacrifices of its characters. This is a quintessential Italian movie, an intense and revealing study of interiors that catc../../articles/pop_playground/he.csss Antonioni in his superior prime.
[Paolo Cabrelli]

L’Eclisse (1962)

“It’s so nice ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre,” sighs Vittoria (Monica Vitti) as s../../articles/pop_playground/he.css sits quietly outside a mundane, underpopulated airfield café following a recreational small-plane jaunt—perhaps t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css only tranquil moment in L’Eclisse. In t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css white ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssat of a Roman summer, Vittoria rebounds from a wounding breakup by drifting from a neighbor’s spontaneous party (w../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre s../../articles/pop_playground/he.css goes exotica by dancing in full-body blackface) to half../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssartedly circling a seductive, go-getting stockbroker (Alain Delon).

Signaled by t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css vertical column that rises in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css opening credits, walls and barriers isolate people and inhibit intimacy; Antonioni contextualizes t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css insignificance of t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css leads’ courtship by miniaturizing t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssm in extreme long shot and, in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css celebrated closing sequence of his Alienation Trilogy, eerily removing t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssm from t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css film’s landscape altoget../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr. Rain barrels disgorge, bus passengers disembark, and streetlights flicker on ominously… This is as honest and relevant a (non-)catharsis as t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css Maestro can supply w../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css alternative is dwelling on t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css transient, anxious coupling of two flailing humans.
[Bill Weber]

Red Desert (1964)

Red Desert is Antonioni's most defiantly experimental film, one that makes great demands of its viewers. It places Antonioni's alienated muse Monica Vitti in a nightmarish world of factories, naval yards, pollution, and dehumanization, set to a soundtrack of electronic dissonance, and filmed in smeared industrial browns. Antonioni famously had every prop and set painted in order to manipulate t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css palette of each frame; in one scene, a bus../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssl of apples appear gray; in anot../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr, a room turns flaming pink after its inhabitants make love.

Like flesh or a wound. Red Desert, more than any of Antonioni's films, relies on abstraction—t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css fragmented mise-en-scène references modernists from Piet Mondrian to Mark Rothko—and suggests that only through art can we find a way out of alienation. Difficult as Red Desert can be to parse, t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre is a strident beauty to its ugliness: Antonioni admires his fragile characters—../../articles/pop_playground/he.css sees t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css cracks in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css modern world that t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy slip into, and reveals t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssm to us, that we won't do t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css same.
[Patrick McKay]

Blow Up (1966)

Antonioni gives a poetic vision of murder in Blow Up, raising as many questions about art and its meaning as ../../articles/pop_playground/he.css does about t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css mysterious plot ../../articles/pop_playground/he.css’s imagined. What’s really powerful about t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css movie isn’t t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css murder that bleeds out slowly through two of t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css photograp../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr’s hastily made images, but t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css pattern of apat../../articles/pop_playground/he.csstic negligence that follows it. T../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre is a stark image of consensus reality in Blow Up. T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css corpse that t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css photograp../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr obsesses over vanis../../articles/pop_playground/he.csss, just as t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css tennis ball appears between t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css two “merrymakers” miming a tennis game.

T../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssse things appear and disappear because people want t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssm to be that way, existent or irrelevant, depending on t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssir whims. But Antonioni questions t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css same system by inserting t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css photograp../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr in its midst, a man who’s employed to find t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css beauties and faults of t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css world and record both. Following him through Blow-Up, you start to see as ../../articles/pop_playground/he.css does. Everyone—t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css enigmatic group of mimes, t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css gorgeous and grotesque supermodels, t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css artist himself—all become specimens, just more clumsy models anxious to try on t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssir costumes.
[Yannick LeJacq]

T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css Passenger (1975)

Instead of retrenching after t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css disastrous reception for Zabriskie Point, Antonioni dug furt../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr into his current obsession with disaffected Americans assimilating unfamiliar landscapes. Thanks to Sony Picture Classics, T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css Passenger got its first DVD release last year, and it's never looked better. Watching it now, it's a nexus of referents and influences. Clair Denis has obviously paid close attention to t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css nonchalant juxtaposition of geography and psychological up../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssaval—in this case, David Locke (Jack Nicholson, restrained but sardonic) casually accepting t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css consequences of his identity-t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssft as ../../articles/pop_playground/he.css's photograp../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssd smoking with a Tuareg nomad in North Africa or dwarfed by an Andalusian mountain. A Borges-ian riddle, T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css Passenger is also—if not just—a swanky ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssad-trip.

You can take t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css identity swap folderol seriously or not; Antonioni's distance is now so genial that while you're arguing about t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css film'../../articles/pop_playground/articles/pop_playground/he.css's already moved on to photographing t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css quotidian (a girl c../../articles/pop_playground/he.csswing bubble gum, a man pushing a bike up a mountain) with an affectless curiosity that David Lynch no doubt admired. Affectlessness does have its limits; we should be grateful that, despite Pauline Kael's ministrations, t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css zombie-like Maria Schneider never did become t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css international poster child for aging male anomie that Last Tango in Paris promised. T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css famous valedictory tracking shots are so effective that t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy remain Antonioni's most ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssartbreaking broken promise: why continue making movies after this?
[Alfred Soto]

Identification of a Woman (1982)

Antonioni’s last feature of his own is mostly forgettable (or, in my case, forgotten), with t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css exception of two scenes: t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css last, which at last confirms that Antonioni was at ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssart a sci-fi filmmaker (alienation, abduction, and amnesia were, after all, his great t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssmes), and what might be t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css greatest chase scene in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css history of movies. Fog was probably Antonioni’s favorite subject—in which, as in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css whole of his films, everything disappears and dissipates—and his favorite belief ../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssld that you can only trust in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css reality of what’s physically in front of you.

T../../articles/pop_playground/he.css two always go toget../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr nicely, but now../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre better than a 20-minute car chase in t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css mist, which finds t../../articles/pop_playground/he.css characters zipping around from one cloud of fog to anot../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssr, as though t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy’re making no physical progress at all, while t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy’re not even sure t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy’re being chased. Existentialism always pairs well with action movies, and Antonioni’s only action scene may be his best: everyone is paranoid that t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy’re being watc../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssd, or worse, that t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy’re not, that t../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssy’ve literally got now../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssre to go, or to come from.
[David Pratt-Robson]

By: Stylus Staff
Publis../../articles/pop_playground/he.cssd on: 2007-08-07
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