Wednesday, October 28, 2015


La Notte
The Michelangelo Antonio starter kit...Before I give my opinions on these films, I'm going to get some bullet points from Gerald Mast, author of my old textbook A Short History of Movies.

1. Antonioni's roots were in neorealism, but he soon deserted this style for a highly polished and stylized drama of personal sensations.

2. Antonioni blurred objective reality and buried the action within the subjective perceptions of the central character.

3. His method involves concentrating as much on the scenic environment as the people in it.

4. His use of modern architecture are metaphors for the  hollowness a character feels at a particular dramatic moment.

5. His characters feel an affinity for white walls which his they go to emphasizing that they are trapped or wall-bound.

6. He trusts visuals over words. Words can be misleading and in Antonioni's world, the characters mostly learn through encounters with the physical world.

And there's so much more that has been written on Antonioni! But the bottom line for me is how is the experience of watching them? What do you feel afterwards? They aren't necessarily about something in particular that is easy to grasp and are as good of examples as any of what people think of as European art films. La Notte is probably my favorite of the three films listed on this post. The English title of La Notte (The Night) is appropriate of a film I think of as dark and perhaps shows the dark side of the marriage of the two main characters of the film. Maybe I'm off base, who knows? There is a lot here to think about-the husband's (Marcello Mastroianni) bizarre encounter with an attractive mental patient and how he tells his wife about it..though not  quite telling the whole truth. The contrast of the couple's life with their terminally ill friend and then the party for the pretentious rich and the husband's encounter there with a young lady (Monica Vitti, who is in all of these films) that takes his fancy. But there is resolution and coming to grips with the problems in the film and ends on a more upbeat note than one might think.

L'Eclisse is even less accessible than the others. A woman (Monica Vitti) has one relationship end and quickly gets involved with a player on the stock market (Alain Delon). The wildness, unpredictability and mass of people yelling during of the stock market scenes is nicely contrasted with the scenes with the two potential lovers on the street, where they seem like the only people in the world. My first thought was that why didn't Antonioni hire more extras, but I think he might be making a point about isolation and loneliness here. L'Eclisse is as bright as La Notte is dark, but does anything get resolved? And what about that ending? I can't say I loved sitting through L'Eclisse, but the more I think about it, I may want to watch it again someday...just not today.

Red Desert
Red Desert is the only one of these films to be shot in color and Antonioni uses many vivid colorful images (the yellow poisonous smoke coming from the factory is an obvious example). Most of film uses as backdrop a huge impersonal factory and mighty ships whose strength and size is in contrast to frailness and vulnerability of the human characters, mostly in the woman Guiliani (Monica Vitti, of course) whose past bouts with mental illness aren't nearly as far in the past as she would like people to believe. I like the ending of the story which neatly brings the story full circle...

...And I've come full circle with the all the Antonioni films on the 1001 list. I do like going through some of these director's work watching several pf them back to back. I've still got enough on the list to do this a few more times with other directors, and maybe add some additional films from their respective works.

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