RIP Michaelangelo Antonioni

// July 31st, 2007

Michaelangelo Antonioni, the legendary Italian filmmaker, passed away yesterday at the age of 94. Antonioni, like Bergman, was among the great filmmakers of his time - an artist of the cinema. Best known for L’Avventura, Blowup, and Zabriskie Point, Antonioni was not without his detractors either. His existential style with long shots, spare dialogue and plots, and open-ended narrative drove crowds like the one in 1960 at Cannes to boo & cheer at the premiere of L’Avventura. The art house cinemas loved it however.

Antonioni’s films were a symbol of our post-modern world of alienation & emptiness - characters wandering through life in search of love or some sort of connection to others, some meaning. His break with conventional narrative - the ending of Blowup being a prime example - was, while frustrating to some, inspiring to many others.

Ironically, Bergman was not a big fan of Antonioni:

He’s done two masterpieces, you don’t have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I’ve seen many times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although that’s mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau. In my collection I have a copy of Il Grido, and damn what a boring movie it is. So devilishly sad, I mean. You know, Antonioni never really learned the trade. He concentrated on single images, never realising that film is a rhythmic flow of images, a movement. Sure, there are brilliant moments in his films. But I don’t feel anything for L’Avventura, for example. Only indifference. I never understood why Antonioni was so incredibly applauded. And I thought his muse Monica Vitti was a terrible actress.

Antonioni’s defense, in his own words:

“Reality changes so rapidly that if one theme is not dealt with, another presents itself. Allowing one’s attention to be attracted by each little thing has become a vice of the imagination. All one has to do is to keep one’s eyes open: everything becomes full of meaning; everything cries out to be interpreted, reproduced. Thus, there is no one particular film that I would like to make; there is one for every single theme I perceive. And I am excited by these themes, day and night.”

still from Blowup

still from L’Avventura:

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