Michelangelo Antonioni



3 thoughts on “Michelangelo Antonioni

  1. Michelangelo Antonioni: the movie revolutionary
    Five years after they both died on the same day, why is the Italian director’s work still overshadowed by Ingmar ‘boring’ Bergman?

    21 July 2012

    Five years after his death, and on the centenary of his birth, Michelangelo Antonioni seems to have fallen out of fashion. When he died in 2007, on the same day as his contemporary, Ingmar Bergman, Antonioni was considered by obituarists to be the junior genius of the pair, even though the Swede’s work fell predictably in step with the wintry, neurotic output of Edvard Munch and August Strindberg, and lacked all formal dynamism. Antonioni, meanwhile, was a formal innovator in a way the plodding Bergman never could be. Since they’re both dead, it hardly matters. But it does seem that you either love Antonioni or you hate him. I’m in the first column.

    So are Stanley Kubrick, Wim Wenders, Miklós Jancsó and Edward Yang, who learned from Antonioni the profound emotional impact of a traffic signal finally turning green, as demonstrated by one exhilarating shot in Yi Yi. The wandering, distracted camerawork of Altman’s The Long Goodbye is quintessentially Antonioni-esque, and the last two seasons of Mad Men are soaked in his influence. Dissenters included Orson Welles and Ingmar Bergman, who called him boring (and he knows boring).

    The movies Antonioni made with his lover and muse Monica Vitti – L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse and Red Desert – made Antonioni the supreme poet of modern disjunction. They live in the misaligned spaces between actor and character, between a story and the manner of its telling, even between the subject and the camera – which often wanders off, more interested in, say, a blue line running up a wall than in the people in front of that wall.

    That blue line moment comes from Red Desert, Antonioni’s first film in colour and more audacious in its use than any movie since Douglas Sirk’s 1956 Technicolor phantasmagoria Written On The Wind. His previous film, L’Eclisse, had ended with one of the great bravura sequences in modern cinema, in which two lovers (Vitti and Alain Delon) fail to show up for a rendezvous. The camera drifts off to visit places they have met previously, daring the audience to beg for humans to fill the emptiness. Red Desert, set in an awesomely large dockside industrial area near Ravenna, proved that the director was as adventurous and revolutionary with colour as he had been with framing and composition. Shot after shot in this movie fires the mind and the senses, even if it’s some smokestack belching poisonous yellow smoke. Vitti’s character, in emotional collapse, cannot adapt to her new surroundings, but Antonioni already has. Like the birds mentioned in the final shot, which now know not to fly into the yellow smoke, he learned to adapt, while she has not.


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