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Michelangelo Antonioni's "L'Avventura"
April 29, 2012 11:41 AM   Subscribe

Many films are called “classic,” but few qualify as turning points in the evolution of cinematic language, films that opened the way to a more mature art form. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura is such a work. It divided film history into that which came before and that which was possible after its epochal appearance. It expanded our knowledge of what a film could be and do. It is more than a classic, it’s an historical milestone. ... Antonioni’s great achievement was to put the burden of narration almost entirely on the image itself, that is, on the characters’ actions and on the visual surface of their environment. He uses natural or manmade settings to evoke his characters’ state of mind, their emotions, their life circumstances. We learn more about them by watching what they do than by hearing what they say. We follow the story more by reading images than we do by listening to dialogue. The settings are not symbolic or metaphoric—they are extensions, manifestations, of the characters’ psyches. Physical landscape and mental landscape become one. - Gene Youngblood
posted by Trurl (20 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
The closing image of L'Avventura, which you liked in your penultimate link, is my favorite image in film history.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 11:53 AM on April 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I stumbled into a showing at the National Gallery a couple of years ago and thank God I read a summary of the plot beforehand, because the whole capricious [spoiler!] "hey, we need to go look for this missing person...you know, whatever, who cares, let's go hang out" aspect of the plot would have driven me mad otherwise.
posted by psoas at 12:15 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You can watch it on Hulu Plus.

There's a new restoration of Antonioni's Red Desert making the rounds. Definitely worth seeing on a theatre screen. I saw it at the Castro in San Francisco, where it was paired with his critical and commercial failure Zabriskie Point. Which is pretty fun if you know what you're getting into.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:19 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Trurl, are you trying to turn Metafilter into some kind of DIY film school? I'm not objecting, I'm just curious.
posted by Chekhovian at 12:22 PM on April 29, 2012


Trurl, are you trying to turn Metafilter into some kind of DIY film school?

Actually, few of my movie posts are about films that I consider historically important. This just happens to be a case where educational value overlaps with Stuff I Like.
posted by Trurl at 12:38 PM on April 29, 2012


Ever consider making your own film blog?
posted by mediated self at 2:13 PM on April 29, 2012


ALL OF THE SPOILERS

The ending of Zabriskie Point, if you have no plans to watch the film - it makes for a pretty awesome Pink Floyd music video in its own right.
posted by sidi hamet at 2:30 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Wow how can people not like that movie if it has exploding frozen chicken carcass?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:48 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, if ever a film demanded the still frame, variable speed, and random access capabilities of the CAV laserdisc format, it is L’Avventura.
posted by bxyldy at 3:28 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Psoas, I did not read a summary before I went to see this movie with a friend at a small art cinema actually located inside an art museum. The small theater was about a third full. I had no idea what to expect.

I kind of got the idea that the film was about ennui and so forth, but when the male lead took himself a seat, lit a cigarette, and proceded to just sit there and smoke it while seeming to stare disinterestedly back at the audience... well I lost it and dissolved into giggles and had to leave.
posted by longsleeves at 4:02 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been watching all the Antonioni I can get my hands on, lately. Youngblood is spot on about the incredible level of visual narrative in L'Avventura.

NOT REALLY A SPOILER, BUT MAYBE SKIP THIS IF YOU'D LIKE TO WATCH IT COLD:

There is a short scene (which the "visual surface" link is from) in which the characters arrive at a church. There is no one around and the characters don't really do anything, but just as they leave there is a long shot down an alley that slowly pans to reveal the church's closed doors, the steeple, and the still sky. You immediately get it: "No, not even religion can help you". The film is full of moments like that; I've never seen such mastery of the long take and the long shot.

OKAY YOU CAN COME BACK NOW

Also pay close attention to his use of sound. Il Deserto Rosso is set largely in industrial areas and he makes sure that the hum, grind, buzz, and clack of the machines pervades scenes set anywhere near them.

I'll be watching Blowup next and I'm really excited for it.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 5:14 PM on April 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The Passenger" is my favorite of his movies and exhibits all the traits upheld here
with such esteem Quite amazing, in my opinion...Ambiguity of reality taken to the nth degree.
posted by eggtooth at 5:17 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first time I saw "L'Avventura" I was bored, so bored, this is so pretentious and arty, OH COME ON, yeah yeah..... oh, I think I get it. Wow.
posted by acrasis at 6:28 PM on April 29, 2012


As much as I enjoy industrial ambient noise, I think Red Desert is hurt by the dialogue, much of which (as I remember it) would probably have longsleeves hooting and snorting in the aisles. Monica Vitti slouches around and announces (in so many words) "I am so so so full of ennui and angst," which it seems to me compares unfavorably, if only on the grounds of parsimony, with L'avventura or, say, Eclipse, where she's content to slouch around and make eyes. There the ennui and angst are, y'know, all piled up into the image, and stuff, and incidentally into the viewer's boredom. Red Desert has all the exquisite boredom, but then has to ruin it by reminding you that you're bored. Nossir, it is a betrayal of everything that Gilles Deleuze, and therefore M. Antonioni, stood for. If memory serves.
posted by flechsig at 7:07 PM on April 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


You think L'Avventura has a go-nowhere plot, I invite you to watch. L'Eclisse sometime. Towards the end not even the characters bother to show up for their scenes. The film continues anyway.

I do owe L'Avventura one thing: to this day whenever someone asks me 'why?' I always retort 'Perchè? Perchè? Perchè?!'
posted by Ritchie at 11:29 PM on April 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You think L'Avventura has a go-nowhere plot, I invite you to watch. L'Eclisse sometime. Towards the end not even the characters bother to show up for their scenes. The film continues anyway.

The greatest moment in all of Antonioni's work, by the way. As Amos Vogel wrote, it is the film's "monstrous climax".

But don't take our word for it. Listen to Martin Scorsese.
posted by Trurl at 5:34 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


"an historical"

L'Avventura is a great film, but anyone who uses "an" before "historical" is an ass.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:51 AM on April 30, 2012


"[...]but anyone who uses "an" before "historical" is an ass."

Not if your accent is such that the h is near-silent!
posted by nobody at 2:08 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not if your accent is such that the h is near-silent!

As a former student of Gene's I can assert that such is not the case. However, he was a great teacher and a generous mentor, and not an ass at all.
posted by lumpenprole at 5:23 PM on April 30, 2012


I'll retract my statement, reluctantly.
posted by Outlawyr at 9:05 AM on May 1, 2012


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