Michelangelo Antonioni dies.
July 31, 2007 6:10 AM   Subscribe

What are you doing? Stop it! Stop it! Give me those pictures. You can't photograph people like that. Who says I can't? I'm only doing my job. Some people are bullfighters, some people are politicians. I'm a photographer.
Michelangelo Antonioni, 1912 - 2007.
posted by feelinglistless (52 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:29 AM on July 31, 2007


I just watched The Passenger last week.
posted by bshort at 6:35 AM on July 31, 2007

. (And a huge one at that.)

I'll always remember the first times I watched L'eclisse and Blow-up. First Bergman, now him. This is too much.

At least they both lived a nice, long life.
posted by Neilopolis at 6:35 AM on July 31, 2007

Just in the middle of a private Antonini festival. I watched L'Aventura and La Notte, the last couple of nights. L'Eclisse planned for tonight. I was astonished by how good they were. First time I've seen them since I was 16 or 17. Really interesting to see them again now, at 60. But they last. Accomplished. Moving.

posted by jennydiski at 6:48 AM on July 31, 2007

Bill Walsh has also passed.
posted by caddis at 6:51 AM on July 31, 2007

Antonioni thrills me. The closing shot from L'Avventura is my favorite final shot from any movie.

posted by dobbs at 6:52 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by awesomebrad at 6:55 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by kdern at 6:58 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by Eirixon at 6:59 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by progosk at 7:02 AM on July 31, 2007

Claude Hooper Bukowski
Finds that it's groovy
To hide in a movie
Pretends he's Fellini
And Antonioni
And also his countryman Roman Polanski
All rolled into one
One Claud Hooper Bukowski
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:05 AM on July 31, 2007

* (flash bulb)
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:12 AM on July 31, 2007

Or lens flare, depending on angle.
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2007

I saw Blow-Up and found it mostly ludicrous, and not in a good way. But the few minutes' performance by the Yardbirds made it totally, totally worth it. Thanks, Michelangelo!
posted by chinston at 7:18 AM on July 31, 2007

Two masters of metaphysical cinema in two days, it breaks the heart but will surely bring still more admirers to their work.

posted by coolhappysteve at 7:20 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by darkripper at 7:35 AM on July 31, 2007

Oh crap. One of my favourites. Bad week so far.
posted by biscotti at 7:36 AM on July 31, 2007

my mom called me quite early this morning because she didn't want me to hear it on TV, she wanted to tell me herself, because she knows how much Antonioni means to me (with her and my late dad, back when I was a kid, we had long arguments at the dinner table, Fellini vs Antonioni, De Sica vs Rossellini, Risi vs Monicelli, Harold Lloyd vs Buster Keaton -- I was delighted to find the same Loyd-Keaton debate in that scene from Bertolucci's The Dreamers). I went downstairs at my corner cafe' and the barista, usually cheerful, said, 'did you hear about Antonioni?'. I went grocery shopping right after and on the radio there was this film critic commenting the news of Antonioni's death and the grocery store lady told me out of the blue, "Cronaca di un amore is my favorite movie". I've been getting calls and txt messages (My favorite: "The invisible tennis ball, wtf") all day now from friends who are all like, this sucks. After Al Di La' Delle Nuvole and that short episode in Eros, imperfect as they are, with those brief priceless blinding flashes of old Antonioni greatness, I guess we all hoped against reason that the old maestro still had one film in him, just one.

the TV said that his body will lie in state at the Campidoglio in Rome, before the funeral in Ferrara, to give the people a chance to pay their respect. by tomorrow night, Italian TV will have broadcast every major film of his, and some of the more obscure ones. I also see the big stories on newspaper websites worldwide.

then of course one remembers the old dumb criticism that Antonioni's films are supposedly difficult, that they are cold, aloof, for academics and not really audience-friendly. so I guess we must be all academics, all of us, millions of academics all over the world, in love with those supposedly aloof films.
posted by matteo at 7:48 AM on July 31, 2007 [10 favorites]

posted by slimepuppy at 7:51 AM on July 31, 2007

Despite his age, it is sad to note his passing. I can't think of a director who had a stronger sense of composition. The stills from his movies are beautiful and the way he strings them together and has them echo and resonate with each other is entrancing. The sequence in L'Avventura where the ink bottle spills across the page followed a few moments later by the rush of black across the empty courtyard keeps going through my head. His movies are austere, but there is a warm tone to them as well that his critics pass right over.
posted by BigSky at 8:18 AM on July 31, 2007


(camera pans away down a long, empty corridor)
posted by jonp72 at 8:18 AM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

very sad, but matteo - " ... and that short episode in Eros, imperfect as they are, " really, you have to admit that his Eros bit was embarrassingly, painfully shit. When I watched it we almost wept to think how far gone the poor guy must have been - for his own sake it should have been cut.
posted by silence at 8:38 AM on July 31, 2007

You forget these guys are still alive. I had a summer of watching KINO classics at Film Forum in the 80s that was one of the most formative and memorable of my life no small thanks to Bergman and my favorite director Michaelangelo Antonini, the master. L' Avventura remains my favorite movie of all time. But it really needs to be seen in an actual theater (or a big screen) and yes dobbs that last shot is amazing, poetically damning and hopeful at once, I fell hopelessly in love with Monica Vitti after that. (if you haven't done so watch the Criterion DVD commentary). The visual language he created through structures and architecture is ground breaking. He employs beatifully the concept of the "Objective Correlative". Also La Notte and L'Eclisse (L' Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse make up a trilogy in that order) , Blow Up and the terrifying Red Desert makes up for an incredible body of work. As he was no longer working he was already missed, but his passing is even sadder. I hope art houses (fuck...if they even exist) see this as an opportunity to show all these films in their B&W grandeur.

Good bye Mr. Antonioni. You were truly one of the greats. Thank you.

posted by Skygazer at 8:44 AM on July 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Unbelievable. Two of our very greatest artists of the cinema within 24 hours. Very sad.

I would agree wholeheartedly with matteo. Both Bergman and Antonioni were ridiculed and lambasted for making what were called "difficult" films, and there are films -- or parts of films -- that both men made that are hard to watch, that make you squirm or feel bored or unhappy or irritated or anxious. But that's the point. Or it's one of the points, anyway.

I watched Antonioni and sometimes came away befuddled, sometimes confused, sometimes embarrassed -- but always enlarged, broadened, and awestruck at his sheer audacity, artistry, and brilliance.

Riposi in pace.
posted by blucevalo at 8:46 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by Football Bat at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2007

Wow. I didn't think I knew who this was until I read the post...

posted by humannaire at 9:30 AM on July 31, 2007

I have usually found that those who defame filmmakers like Bergman and Antonioni have barely seen any of their films and, if they have seen any of their films, have only seen them once.

The hesitancy to experience major works of art multiple times is what separates the fundamentally lazy from the legitimate enthusiast / obsessive. Those of us in the latter category really do look down with pity and disdain upon those of you in the former category, for we really have seen more than what you have. And it's usually quite easy for us to distinguish the lazy from the truly concerned. Case in point.

This is a significant week in film history. Go watch Red Desert and The Silence a couple times each in the next few weeks in commemoration. Be alert while you watch. Let them swallow you visually and aurally. Make mental notes of seemingly trivial details, either textually or photographically, and watch how those small details will often be connected to some later detail, large or small, to great effect. Allow the filmmaker to compel you to feel emotions more subtle and complex than those elicited by watching America's Next Top Disposal Populist Totem. Let yourself actually be changed by and perhaps even derive substantive meaning from these films, and these filmmakers, who have thought more carefully and for longer about these issues than you probably have.

Or don't. Those of us in the latter category will still do so.
posted by gramschmidt at 9:34 AM on July 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

Erratum: Case in point.
posted by gramschmidt at 9:35 AM on July 31, 2007

He had a very long life and I'm glad of it. I think the world is a better place that he lived and lived a full, very creative life.

matteo, thank you for a snapshot of what it's like in Italy. Your comment gave such a good feeling about how people are responding, the importance of his death to Italians of all types.

Clips of Antonioni's films on YouTube and GoogleTube. there are some excellent examples there, even in sushi version of why he was so renowned as a film maker. Two clips of his use of slowness to magnify, the last minutes of L'Eclisse and the explosion in Zabriskie Point (co-written and a big film beginning for Sam Shepard).

He was innovative in his choices of music, using Pink Floyd in Zabriskie Point and the Yardbirds in Blow-Up.

The quotation above, the title of this post is taken from Blow-Up, which was a huge cultural breakthrough when I was a kid of 12 in 1966. It peeled away some glamour layers of the beautiful people fashion biz and depicted the vaccum of fraudulent sexiness among narcissists (that's the famous scene where the David Hemmings character photographs a skeletal Veruschka.

Thank you Michelangelo Antonioni for your wonderful, intelligent, enlivening movies.
posted by nickyskye at 10:39 AM on July 31, 2007

posted by Frankie Villon at 10:55 AM on July 31, 2007

a little, poisoned Valentine from the Ingmar Bergman site admins.

Bergman on Antonioni (not a fan):
"Fellini, Kurosawa and Bunuel move in the same field as Tarkovsky. Antonioni was on his way, but expired, suffocated by his own tediousness."
- The Magic Lantern

"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."
- Jan Aghed, "När Bergman går på bio", Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 12 maj 2002.
posted by matteo at 12:03 PM on July 31, 2007

posted by brundlefly at 12:37 PM on July 31, 2007

Blow Up made me feel stupid.
posted by hypocritical ross at 12:45 PM on July 31, 2007

Antonioni wasn't much more amicable:

"I detest sentimentalism, pietism, and wallowing in pathos. I have chosen lucidity. I am staunchly secular. I do not impose sentiments: I propose, I describe them. I abhor big drama*. I am neither a moralist, nor a pedagogue."
- from a conversation on Bergman.
*scene madri, slightly tricky to translate...

Bergman, on the other hand, eventually warmed to Antonioni.
posted by progosk at 1:12 PM on July 31, 2007

I have usually found that those who defame filmmakers like Bergman and Antonioni have barely seen any of their films and, if they have seen any of their films, have only seen them once.

The hesitancy to experience major works of art multiple times is what separates the fundamentally lazy from the legitimate enthusiast / obsessive. Those of us in the latter category really do look down with pity and disdain upon those of you in the former category, for we really have seen more than what you have. And it's usually quite easy for us to distinguish the lazy from the truly concerned. Case in point.

Whoa, them's fightin' words, fella! I admit that I don't always have time to fit in multiple viewings of certain movies in between my multiple rereadings of Marcel Proust. Have I established my High Art bona fides now?

If "major works of art" qualify as such in part because they attract (and create) viewers/readers who are sensitive to nuance and detail, resistant to close-minded, ignorant snap judgments (like writing strangers off as "fundamentally lazy"), and more sympathetic than disdainful, then they seem to have failed in your case, at least as evidenced by your comment.

In fact I wasn't defaming either Bergman or Antonioni. I have no opinion about either, personally. As far as their work is concerned, I like Bergman's films that I have seen (even more than once, in some cases!). My experience of Antonioni's work is quite limited - merely the single viewing of Blow-Up, which did not seem like great art to me. I remain open to changing my mind, both as to that one movie which I am happy to watch again at some point, and as to Antonioni's work in general, about which I have not formed an opinion because I have not seen any of it.

Anyway, if you are truly interested in persuading more people to see and appreciate his work (instead of merely seeking out the most abstruse, impenetrable art to prop up your own sense of intellectual superiority), you needn't worry about the effect of your ignorant rant - I won't hold the silly bleatings of one of his fans against Antonioni himself.
posted by chinston at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2007

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:29 PM on July 31, 2007

Blow Up is actually not that hard to understand. It is set up like a thriller of sorts: A photographer takes a photo and upon inspection of the photo believes he sees a dead body. He goes back to the scene of the crime....
But really it is about an alienated photographer in 1960's swinging London who begins to investigate what he believes to be a murder and in the process begins to find himself.

Most of his other films are about the nature of alienation in modern society.
He wasn't the first to do this but he was the first [so far as I can tell] to blend form and content to the point that alienation become not only a plot point but the visual, aural and emotional foundation of the work as well.
posted by Rashomon at 2:31 PM on July 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

Chinston: I think Blow-Up is the worst film he's made that I've seen. The 'swinging' aspect and 60s London has been beaten to death in pop culture, so at least when I see it, I can't totally get away from that. L'Eclisse on the other hand is a total work of art. But you do have to give it your full attention.
posted by mike_bling at 2:35 PM on July 31, 2007

Chinston: I think Blow-Up is the worst film he's made that I've seen. . . . L'Eclisse on the other hand is a total work of art.

I'm certainly eager to see more given the praise. More titles for my netflix queue...
posted by chinston at 2:42 PM on July 31, 2007

(3 major Antonioni films on at the same time on Italian network TV: in this very moment -- Blow Up on RaiUno, Deserto Rosso on Rete4, The Passenger on La7. In the afternoon they had broadcast his early works. More to come tomorrow. And the President, the speaker of the House and the President of the Senate and the Mayor of Rome will all be at the Campidoglio. And from France, President Sarkozy sent a very nice letter praising the late director)
posted by matteo at 3:58 PM on July 31, 2007

(and you can vote his best film here; unsurprisingly, Blow Up is winning big as of now. Surprisingly, Zabriskie Point is second, L'Avventura a very distant fourth, tied with the Passenger, "Professione Reporter" in Italian).
posted by matteo at 4:06 PM on July 31, 2007

Like Bergman, he lived a long life and made good movies. After 1990, he's made only 4 movies (of which one, the latest, is just a segment of a movie). It seems his work was done.

posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:11 PM on July 31, 2007

professione reporter on la7? damn, I was viewing again Blow Up and zabriskie point but I've never seen that one. This seems like a good occasion to try to rent it somewhere.
posted by darkripper at 4:13 PM on July 31, 2007

Well shit. Like jennydiski I've been trying to get my hands on anything I could by Antonioni this year, so his work is very much on my mind. I feel bad that I couldn't finish Le Amiche now.

Someone better go check on Éric Rohmer, the way things are going.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:52 PM on July 31, 2007

I was going to say Godard, but yeah. These things come in threes, don't they?
posted by brundlefly at 2:12 AM on August 1, 2007

Fahey is now past the five-year bout of Epstein-Barr Syndrome that made his life hell in the mid-to-late '80's. "I could feel it when it entered me and I could feel it when it left," he says. "That's when I was at my apex of drinking. I had to drink a lot of beer for the energy. I didn't play nearly as much. I talked most of the time. That's because I didn't have the energy to play more. It was horrible." Still, he is plagued with something called Restless Leg Disorder, which causes long periods of involuntary muscle contractions, as well as the persistent chronic insomnia that made him one of the first people to receive a prescription for Quaaludes when they were introduced in the '60's. Fahey had just begun to take his Quaaludes when the Italian director, Michaelangelo Antonioni, flew him over to Rome to record music for the soundtrack of Zabriskie Point.

Antonioni's conceptual sequel to Blow-Up is an Italian leftist's goofball cinematic view of late '60s American counterculture. It features a long sequence with nude couples making love in the desert, for which Antonioni wanted Fahey to do the music. When Fahey arrived in Rome, Antonioni showed him the segment in a screening room. "Antonioni says, 'What I want you to do is to compose some music that will go along with the porno scene.' I kept saying, 'Yes, sir.' Then he starts this, 'Now, John. This is young love. Young love.' I mean, that's young love? All these bodies? 'Young love. But John, it's in the desert, where's there's death. But it's young love.' He kept going, 'Young Love/Death' faster and faster. I was sure I was talking to a madman. I'm still sure I was.

"So I experimented. I had instrumentalists come in and told them just to play whatever they felt like. They had to pretend to understand what I was talking about, especially if Antonioni came in the room. That was fun. They were very cooperative. I came up with some sections of music that sounded more like death than young love. It was actually pretty ominous. I played it for Michaelangelo and he thought it was great. So he took me out to dinner at this really fancy restaurant and started telling me how horrible the United States was. We were drinking a lot of wine and I don't remember which one of us started cussing. It started real fast and ended in a fistfight. You have no idea how much that guy hates the United States...
The Persecutions and Resurrections of BLind Joe Death (revised)

I Was Punched Out By John Fahey And All I Did Was Make This Lousy Movie
posted by y2karl at 5:57 AM on August 1, 2007

What an amazing thread. Really enjoying the thought and discussion.

From Wikipedia: "Antonioni died on July 30, 2007 in Rome, aged 94, the same day that another renowned film director, Ingmar Bergman, also died."

Watching Ingmar Bergman being interviewed by Dick Cavett on TV last night, I thought of matteo's comments about Antonioni's and Bergman's dislike of each other. That zing. Bergman seemed intent on slowness of his own kind...and I think he needed to live long, that he planned on it as part of his comprehension of life as a highly sensitive, deeply emotional person.

Antonioni's vision was much darker than Bergman's. "One of the recurring themes in Antonioni's films is characters who suffer from ennui and whose lives are empty and purposeless aside from the gratification of pleasure or the pursuit of material wealth. Film historian David Bordwell writes that in his films, "Vacations, parties and artistic pursuits are vain efforts to conceal the characters' lack of purpose and emotion. Sexuality is reduced to casual seduction, enterprise to the pursuit of wealth at any cost."

Sounds much like brilliant Adam Curtis' documentary, Century of the Self.
posted by nickyskye at 10:16 AM on August 1, 2007

in today's Repubblica, Alain Resnais very graciously says that "watching Antonioni's films makes me feel like an amateur", and that "what amazes me the most is not his complete mastery of technique but the intense emotions he gives me -- some people say that Antonioni is cold but then his ice always burns".

the same paper carries a heartbreakingly beautiful interview where Antonioni's wife Enrica describes the maestro's final months -- last September he had become unable to paint due to the loss of his eyesight, and from that moment on he had lost his will to go on. his wife Enrica describes how Monday night around 730 the maid asked her to immediately come to the living room, where the maestro had passed out while resting on his favorite armchair: his head was reclined as he took three short, sharp breaths. but then he lifted his head, took a long, slow breath and then died as she was holding his hand.

she says that many years ago a Buddhist monk had explained them that the full moon of July, the most luminous and purest of the year, is the moon of the Enlightened ones (she doesn't mention it, but it's the day the Buddha delivered his first sermon). "There's a mysterious grace in the fact that both Michelangelo and Bergman died that day", she says.

but my favorite part is where Mrs. Enrica explains that the maestro slept every night, for many years, with a stuffed leopard given to him by a yoga instructor in India. I don't know why, the old maestro and the stuffed animal, it makes me smile.
posted by matteo at 10:26 AM on August 1, 2007

(maybe Bergman had a teddy bear, or a stuffed moose, too, who knows)
posted by matteo at 10:29 AM on August 1, 2007

oh, and I really like this photo, taken today in Rome's city hall, the Campidoglio.
posted by matteo at 10:32 AM on August 1, 2007

three last bits: his wife, interviewed today; his short film N.U. (on garbage collectors); a video collage (courtesy of blob) juxtaposing various pieces of his films.

r.i.p., m.a.
posted by progosk at 12:02 PM on August 1, 2007

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