Tuesday, July 31, 2007

R.I.P., Michelangelo Antonioni

So now we learn that not one, but two of cinema's true greats died yesterday. It's difficult not to compare the two. Bergman's fame was more widespread and not without reason, but I think his skills as a dramatist were such that he would have been a success if he had stayed with the stage or come to prominence at any point in the twentieth century. Antonioni's strengths were more unique to film and the 1960s, and his movies are a bit harder to get into than Bergman's.

Nevertheless, I went on an Antonioni kick a decade or so ago and have seen seven* of his films, though only 1995's Beyond the Clouds was in a theater. After watching The Passenger, I jokingly referred to his pictures as "inaction movies," as he's constantly thwarting our expectations of a dramatic arc. But what is happening in his movies is that his struggles with modern life are being explored in ways that can't be spoken, conveyed through the composition, setting, and timing of his films, and through characters who often can't find the words to express their feelings, either. It's inherently difficult to write about a filmmaker whose movies are about lack of communication. Better just to watch them. Or take a trip out to Death Valley and feel it for yourself.*The seven are L'Avventura, L'Ecclise, Red Desert, Blow-Up, Zabriskie Point, The Passenger, and Beyond the Clouds.

UPDATE: Vic has written some more elaborate thoughts on Antonioni, too.

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