Count Pier Francesco Orsini (Google auto-translate) was a man much given to melancholy. The premature death of his wife, Giulia Farnese, and other troubles contributing to the decay of the once proud Orsini dynasty, darkened his outlook on life. Like the world-hating Jacques in Shakespeare's As You Like It, he seems to have come to regard the world around him with a somewhat self-advertising disgust. Orsini retreated noisily from the world of human affairs into nature, albeit a nature much improved by art (Google books preview). Those improvements came in the form of larger-than-life sculptures, some sculpted in the bedrock, which populated Sacro Bosco ("Sacred Grove"), colloquially called Parco dei Mostri ("Park of the Monsters"). [more inside]
[all links may contain SPOILERS] Antonioni's unique style works beautifully in The Passenger. The dream-like long takes, especially the final seven minute one where the dusty town square is seen through the barred window of Locke's hotel room—evokes a world that he is barred from. There is nothing romantic or sentimental about the space that we see, but it conveys a sense of an ongoing life that Locke has chosen to retreat from. There is also Antonioni's eye for aesthetic detail-for whitewashed walls of buildings, and vividly colored backgrounds like yellow doors and red car seats. He is a director of great formal rigor and beauty, whose style effortlessly suits his vision. The slow rhythm of the film may put off some viewers, but it forces them to be more observant, and understand there is nothing accidental in the images that Antonioni constructs. - Leonard Quart [more inside]
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
Movie trivia: If someone were to ask you the name of a 1966 mystery/thriller that was shot in London, included a Redgrave sister in the cast, and had a soundtrack composed by a jazz giant, you would have two choices for an answer. [more inside]
[Michelangelo Antonioni's Chung Kuo] as a documentary film was one which was draped with fascination for both filmmakers as well as an audience, rather than championing anti-whatever sentiments from either side of the world. Not having seen many movies, either features, shorts or documentaries made during the Cultural Revolution era or about that era in question (propaganda included), I think this Antonioni film has more than made its mark as a definitive documentary that anyone curious about the life of the time, would find it a gem to sit through.
The Lord of the Rings wasn't the only movie featuring The Beatles that never happened. Very early in their career, the group signed a three-movie deal with United Artists as a way to get increased publicity, with A Hard Day's Night (1964) and Help! (1965) being completed in short time. An early contender for their third film was a western comedy. Going quite a different direction was a "morbid and dull" work called Up Against It, seen by others as dated satire that read "like a rather mediocre early [Monty] Python movie." Continue on in for more ephemera from other rejected film projects by The Beatles. [more inside]
Pauline Kael called it "a huge, jerry-built, crumbling ruin of a movie". Roger Ebert called it "such a silly and stupid movie... our immediate reaction is pity". Few directors of Michelangelo Antonioni's stature have followed a film as acclaimed as Blowup (1966) with one as reviled as Zabriskie Point (1970). [more inside]
In Scenes from an Overrated Career, film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum writes a rare New York Times op-ed arguing that the work of recently deceased director Ingmar Bergman is overvalued compared to Carl Theodor Dreyer and Robert Bresson. Both Roger Ebert and David Bordwell respond to Rosenbaum's takedown of Bergman, while Rosenbaum writes a brief eulogy blog post on Bergman. Meanwhile, another blogger discusses how Antonioni and Bergman hated each other despite recent obits that have paired them together.
All Fall Down: Remember the famous explosion sequence in Antonioni's Zabriskie Point? Fiona Villela says: "Flying toward the viewer, these many shards of shiny bits and pieces that once served a utilitarian purpose when part of a greater object here exist in and of themselves in a purely dazzling spectacle. This is the only way Antonioni can see the beauty of American capitalism, as a rainbow of shattered objects lost in space and time. ". What is the (undeniable) pleasure of watching big structures, that took years to build, destroyed in a few seconds? And has September 11 taken the fun out of implosion voyeurism? [Via memepool; original post by yoyology; Real required.]