One of the masterworks of 1960s cinema, La notte [The Night] marked yet another development in the continuous stylistic evolution of its director, Michelangelo Antonioni — even as it solidified his reputation as one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. La notte is Antonioni’s “Twilight of the Gods”, but composed in cinematic terms. Examined from a crane-shot, it’s a sprawling study of Italy’s upper middle-class; seen in close-up, it’s an x-ray of modern man’s psychic desolation. Two of the giants of film-acting come together as a married couple living in crisis: Marcello Mastroianni (La dolce vita, 8 1/2) and Jeanne Moreau (Jules et Jim, Bay of Angels). He is a renowned author and “public intellectual”; she is “the wife”. Over the course of one day and the night into which it inevitably bleeds, the pair will come to re-examine their emotional bonds, and grapple with the question of whether love and communication are even possible in a world built out of profligate idylls and sexual hysteria. Continue reading Michelangelo Antonioni – La notte (1961)
Michelangelo Antonioni’s Le Amiche opens with an aerial shot of Turin, Italy that, in the moment, could easily be mistaken as simply a cheery, picturesque backdrop for the credits sequence. Retroactively, though, the image proves deceptive and even misleading in its suggestion of peace and tranquility. Antonioni’s 1955 film interrogates the detrimental socio-economic dimensions of modernity in Turin by moving an assortment of characters through confrontations and conversations in drawing rooms and cafés, and outside on beaches and in alleyways, so that a character’s elation or devastation must be understood in relation to the place where it occurs. Le Amiche is filled with characters asking one another “why” something is happening, but for the director, “where” is always the most optimal question. Continue reading Michelangelo Antonioni – Le amiche AKA The Girlfriends (1955)
IMDB quote 1: Three stories of well-off youths who commit murders. In the French episode a group of high school students kill one of their colleagues for his money. In the Italian episode a university student is involved in smuggling cigarettes. In the English episode a lazy poet finds the body of a woman on the downs, and tries to sell his story to the press.
IMDB quote2: This was Antonioni’s third film and arguably his rarest from the pre-AVVENTURA period. Taking an episodic structure, it is a sober treatment of juvenile delinquency – showing a widespread alienation affecting the youth of the post-war years in various European cities. The film has a rough, torn-from-the-headlines feel to it – even if the director’s perspective isn’t nearly as acute as in his later, more polished work (tending also towards preachiness, beginning from the opening montage). Continue reading Michelangelo Antonioni – I vinti AKA The Vanquished (1953)
A frustrated war correspondent, unable to find the war he’s been asked to cover, takes the risky path of co-opting the I.D. of a dead arms dealer acquaintance.
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Leaving her lover of four years, Vittoria starts an affair with a stockbroker. But as the film progresses, her emptiness becomes more obvious, echoed in the buildings and the landscape, and she finally decides on a life of solitude rather than marriage or a failing relationship. Completing what is now seen as a trilogy of films on alienation after The Adventure and The Night, The Eclipse paints a picture of how modern industrial society can obliterate the emotions between men and women. Antonioni uses his symbols boldly: the final shots – 52 of them – hauntingly reflect a city empty of life. Continue reading Michelangelo Antonioni – L’Eclisse (1962)
Michelangelo Antonioni’s Identification of a Woman is a body- and soul-baring voyage into one man’s artistic and erotic consciousness. After his wife leaves him, a film director finds himself drawn into affairs with two enigmatic women: at the same time, he searches for the right subject and actress for his next film. This spellbinding antiromance was a late-career coup for the legendary Italian filmmaker, and is renowned for its sexual explicitness and an extended scene on a fog-enshrouded highway that stands with the director’s greatest set pieces (-Criterion) Continue reading Michelangelo Antonioni – Identificazione di una donna AKA Identification of a Woman (1982)
Clara Manni (Lucia Bosé, so good in Antonioni’s A Story of a Love Affair), a Milan shop girl, is discovered on the street and used for a bit part in a movie. That single part brings her immediate celebrity, and with the coaxing of her producer, Gianni, she becomes a screen sex symbol. She has great success in several sex comedy vehicles, but Gianni decides to push her into the world of the art film in order to attain artistic legitimacy and respect. She never wishes for this, since money is never an issue to her, but she is pushed head first into a production of Joan of Arc. The film is brutally attacked by the critics, and Clara’s dignity and identity are thrown into question in the harrowing final shot. Continue reading Michelangelo Antonioni – La signora senza camelie AKA The Lady Without Camelias [+Extras] (1953)