During a five year period in the 1960s Michelangelo Antonioni almost single-handedly deconstructed Italian and world cinema with a series of existential studies of alienation and frustration. Antonioni turned narrative film inside out, eschewing plot and character development for an internal style, punctuated with fleeting thoughts, irrational actions, and some stultifying angst. His massive influence can be felt in the reflective films of Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Jim Jarmusch, and Hal Hartley, among countless others.

A career in filmmaking seemed unlikely for Antonioni, who graduated from the University of Bologna with a degree in the economics in 1935. But as business and academics did little to stir his passions, he found himself drifting towards the arts, especially theatre and film. Until the outbreak of WWII he contributed articles to several film periodicals including Cinema, a magazine edited by Il Duce’s son Vittorio Mussolini.

Antonioni got his first big break when he was assigned to work as an assistant to Marcel Carne on his masterwork The Children of Paradise. Unfortunately, the French director mostly disdained his protégé, and when Antonioni returned to Italy he was conscripted into the Army.

    You want to be loved as if you are poor. 

After the war Antonioni turned to friends and associates to help fund his first film, Gente del Po a short documentary about a poor fishing community in the Po River valley, near his hometown of Ferrara. While the film proved a success, Antonioni still had to scramble to find work in the unstable Italian film industry. He culled his craft by making several more documentaries in the neo-realistic style before finally getting a chance to make a feature at the ripe old age of thirty-eight.

On the surface, Antonioni’s first feature Cronaca di un Amore (Story of a Love Affair) owes much more to the dark, deterministic genre of film noir than it does to Italian neo-realism. The plot, reminiscent of Visconti’s Ossessione, reads like an American potboiler. Rich Milanese industrialist Enrico Fontana (Ferdinando Sarmi) hires Carloni (Gino Rossi), a private detective to look into the past of his young wife Paola (Lucia Bose), who he suspects has been unfaithful. Carloni’s snooping leads one of Paola’s old friends to contact Guido (Massimo Girotti), an ex-lover who still carries a torch for the beautiful woman. Worried that Carloni will implicate them in the accidental death of Guido’s fiancée, the couple rekindles their romance and Paola soon reveals her desire to kill the repulsive Fontana.

Cronaca di un amore doesn’t resemble any of the films of Antonioni’s major period, but his selfish protagonists share the same social dysfunction. The narcissistic Paola refuses to sleep with Fontana and uses her wealth and social status to belittle Guido who has already let his fiancée plummet to her death for a shot at bedding Paola. Fontana threatens to expose Paola’s complicity in Guido’s crime to make her a doting wife. Guido’s friends use the illicit lovers to sell expensive cars and make a boyfriend jealous.

The neo-realist example helps free Antonioni, here, to create a new internal style—where people fail to connect and end up being stuck in a hell of their own making. The film’s fatalistic noir aspects become an exercise in irony when Fontana dies accidentally, leaving Paola and Guido free to contemplate an unhappy future.

     Out of the past.

For I Vinti Antonioni shot three short films (in France, Italy and England) about senseless murders committed by young men of the middle-classes. Bowing to regional cliche, the French episode is filmed as a crime of passion, the Italian interlude is a mob-inspired murder of operatic proportions and the English crime is committed with macabre irony. These seemingly benign killers live comfortably with parents and familial guardians but each have been led astray by the sort of frustrations which would bloom in his later works: unrequited love, desire to escape a hum-drum existence and delusions of grandeur.

Those only familiar with 1960s Antonioni may be surprised to learn he could shoot a well-crafted conventional narrative and here we get an early inkling of the filmmaker’s sensitivity to the great outdoors and his harmonious sense of space.

    Juvenile delinquents.

Antonioni hired gorgeous Lucia Bose again to play the breakout starlet in La signora senza camelie (The Lady Without Camelias), an insider’s takedown of the commercial film industry. Shop girl turned movie actress Clara Manni (Bose) rises to fame on the account of her chiseled good looks and the sexy roles she’s given play. She succumbs to the proposals the rich and possessive Gianni (Andrea Chechi) who wants her to take on more sophisticated roles as befits a classic movie queen. Their co-production of Joan of Arc is a debacle and after the film is pulled from theaters, Gianni attempts suicide.

Clara enters into an affair with a fan Nardo (Ivan Destry), who turns out to be a heel, but she continues her professional relationship with her husband to help him get out of debt. Clara’s next film, a melodrama, turns out to be a box office hit but she is now made clearly aware her star status will only last as long as her youthful beauty holds out.

This flip-side to Visconti’s sunny take on movie madness Bellissima resembles the dark spins on film stardom (The Bad and the Beautiful, A Star Is Born) being made in Hollywood during the early 1950s. The aristocratic Bose seems too lofty to be so easily manipulated by the insecure Gianni, the hands-on producer Ercole (Gino Cervi) and her feckless new boyfriend, but La signora senza camelie turned out to be an intelligent entertainment.

   Bigger than life.

In his most studio-bound film, Antonioni made great use of confined space. His fluid camera takes in the nervous, behind the scenes energy on a film set and conveys all the chaos and magic of moviemaking. Clara is propped and pulled every which way, a dehumanizing process which makes the confused, but ambitious, girl long for the privacy which comes with being a rich wife or an inaccessible film goddess.

Region B/2 Import DVD

Antonioni’s contribution to the omnibus Love in the City was Tentata suicidio in which a group of survivors of attempted suicide are rounded-up like a group of suspects of a crime in order to tell their stories. Although the intentions seemed honorable at the time, this “serious” interlude resembles some of Antonioni’s early, by the rote documentaries.

     Misery loves company.

Antonioni’s final film in the classic tradition would be Le Amiche (The Girlfriends), a backbiting drama about a group of Turin women. Clelia (Eleonora Rossi-Drago) returns to her hometown from Rome to set up a fashion boutique. On her first night in the city she helps save Rosetta (Madeleine Fischer), a young woman who has overdosed on sleeping pills. Clelia quickly strikes up a friendship with the naïve Rosetta, who is in an unhappy relationship with the brooding artist Lorenzo (Gabriele Ferzetti).

Being friends with Rosetta means Clelia has to make nice with the younger woman’s cynical upper-class friends. Particularly irritating is the group’s Queen Bee Momina (Yvette Furneaux) who schemes to hook Rosetta up with the already spoken-for Lorenzo. Clelia’s budding romance with assistant architect Carlo (Ettore Manni) is frowned upon by the group because of his lowly social status. When Rosetta finally succeeds in killing herself, Clelia decides to return to Rome leaving the vituperative hornet’s nest behind.

   Backbiters and syndicators.

Le amiche is probably the most accessible and entertaining work in the Antonioni canon. A distant cousin to George Cukor’s The Women, the daring film offers a wide array of women in the process of jump-starting careers, finding sexual liberation, and getting done-in by no-good, two-timing men. Le amiche is compromised by the women’s fixation on their lackluster circle of men friends, who remain the major objects of desire. Nevertheless, the pivotal scenes of Rosetta’s romantic angst and Lorenzo’s existential dread helped advance the introspective Antonioni style which would fully flower in his next film.

    Salon society.

Set amongst the small villages and flat vastness of the Po Valley, Il Grido follows the aimless wanderings of a man cast adrift by the woman he loved.

After learning her husband has died in Australia, Irma (Alida Valli) surprises her longtime lover Aldo (Steve Cochran) by proclaiming she no longer loves him and intends to marry another man. After failing to win Irma back Aldo takes their illegitimate daughter Rosina (Mirna Girardi), and leaves their village of Goriano.

He returns to his hometown to look for work and rekindle a romance with old flame Elvia (Betsy Blair). The plain woman is disappointed to find Aldo still holds a torch for Irma and has no real feelings for her. After Elvia’s younger sister makes a pass at Aldo, he gathers Rosina and hits the road, again.

Fate drops them off at a desolate filling station run by Virginia (Dorian Gray), an attractive young widow. She seduces Aldo into staying on, but when Rosina catches the couple making love the shamed father sends his daughter back to Irma. Worn down by Virginia’s possessiveness, Aldo moves in with a pretty prostitute (Lynn Shaw), in her squalid shack by the river. After she sells herself for a much needed meal, the disappointed Aldo drifts back to Goriano.

The town is in an uproar over the building of a new airfield, but Aldo crosses the pickets and police lines to get a shocking glimpse of Irma caring for her new baby. Thunderstruck, Aldo wanders back to the factory where he used to work. Irma watches with concern as the distraught man climbs up a tower, grows dizzy, and falls to his death.

Il grido is the first recognizable work of Antonioni’s mature style. Shot in starkly luminous black and white by cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, the slow-paced film unfolds like an endless dream…or nightmare. Antonioni eschews the humanizing use of close-ups for the more philosophically alienating effects of long shots, wide pans, and lengthy takes.

This chilling style makes the inarticulate Aldo shrink deeper into gray expanses of the drab locales. The ambiguous ending is also an exercise in frustration. Does Aldo commit suicide or did he suffer from vertigo? Does it really matter? Such questions were of little interest to its creator.

  Films should not be made to entertain the audience.

The Antonioni style truly came into its own with L’Avventura, a contemplative odyssey of missed connections, death and re-birth. Heeding back to his neo-realist roots Antonioni looked to fashion a cinema that put boredom and the mundane moments of everyday life on an even keel with the most dramatic events. This method reached a perfect synthesis in L’avventura, a slightly cynical escapade of a pack of well-to-do Romans on a holiday gone bad.

The film opens with young and pretty Anna (Lea Massari) having a lover’s quarrel with her architect boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) just as they are about to embark on a Sicilian yachting trip with their friends. Upset, Anna takes her friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) into confidence and turns the pleasure cruise into an uncomfortable experience for everybody on board. When Anna disappears without a trace on a rocky Aeolian island, Claudia leads a desperate and ultimately fruitless search for her friend.

Disturbed by her own feelings towards Sandro, Claudia chastises the unfeeling man which only accelerates their inevitable hook-up. When it becomes clear Anna won’t be coming back, the self-loathing Sandro spurns Claudia for a fling with a prostitute. Ultimately, the conscience-stricken Sandro prostrates himself before Claudia, begging forgiveness and seeking redemption.

Where the bleak style and emotional barrenness of Il grido often lent itself to parody, all the right notes are struck in L’avventura. The cosmopolitan Sandro and Claudia are fish out of water in conservative Sicily where the fruitlessness of the quest at hand has chipped away at their brittle personas, revealing two quivering masses of self-loathing.

The extended takes and pregnant pauses are mercifully broken-up by luminous close-ups and subtle POV shooting, maintaining the film’s unique life-rhythm while giving its audience hooks to hang their emotions on. Antonioni found his muse, and real life soul mate, in the exotic Vitti, a leading lady capable of registering deep-rooted insecurity and vulnerability beneath a regal facade.

     Words are becoming less and less necessary.

The opening of La Notte finds successful author Giovanni Pontano (Marcello Mastroianni) and his wife Lidia (Jeanne Moreau) visiting their terminally ill friend Tommaso Garani (Bernhard Wicki) in a generic Milan hospital. They try to comfort the dying man but it is clear they would rather be elsewhere. Tommaso makes the couple even more uncomfortable by lamenting his failure as a writer and as a human being.

On his way out of the hospital Giovanni is distracted then seduced by a pretty nymphomaniac. Feeling guilty, he confesses the incident to Lidia, who acts as if she couldn’t care less. But her feminine pride is wounded and during an extended walk around the rougher streets of the city she vamps every man in sight.

That evening Lidia tries to re-ignite Giovanni’s passion by bringing him back to the neighborhood where they first fell in love. Lidia talks him out of going to a society party, but later, while sharing a drink at a jazz club she comes to realize their marriage has gone dead. They decide to go to the party at a lush estate outside of town, but once they get there they go their separate ways.

Giovanni hooks up with the pretty Valentina Gherardini (Monica Vitti), but he’s turned off by her cynicism and cavalier outlook on life. Lidia drives off with a mysterious stranger, but she finds she can’t go through sleeping with him and asks to return to the party. Giovanni is summonsed by Valentina’s father, who offers the author a well-paying position in his corporation. Giovanni ponders taking the financially rewarding job, but worries it would cut deeply into his writing time.

Meanwhile, Valentina consoles the distraught Lidia who has learned Tommaso has died. When Giovanni returns Valentina discreetly departs to let the couple sort out their problems. At dawn’s break, Giovanni and Lidia walk aimlessly around the estate. Lidia confesses Tommasso was in love with her but she had no feelings for her mentor. She also admits she no longer loves Giovanni, prompting him to make a desperate attempt to seduce her on the lawn. She acquiesces to his groping, but it’s difficult to imagine this reconciliation will last.

While many critics found La notte too chilly and detached to embrace, it did succeed in capturing the intricacies of a love relationship gone stale. Giovanni and Lidia remain sexual beings fully capable of attracting any number of partners, but when they are with one another they only feel the anguish of unrelieved boredom. The wild, extended party sequence is a welcome break from the Pontanos’ brooding and these spontaneous, seemingly out of context sequences would become major centerpieces of future Antonioni films.

     I no longer have inspirations, only recollections. 

In L’Eclisse, the unlikely pairing of an earnest young translator with an energetic stock broker creates plenty of sexual fireworks but after relatively little soul-searching the protagonists come to the mature realization their love hasn’t a chance.

After spending the evening arguing with her boyfriend Riccardo (Francisco Rabal), Vittoria (Monica Vitti) dumps the possessive intellectual and sets out on her own. Vittoria visits the stock exchange to inform her working-class mother (Lilla Brignone) of the news. As the older woman watches her stocks plummet catastrophically, she takes time out to chastise her daughter for giving up an attractive meal ticket.

Vittoria catches the eye of her mother’s handsome broker Piero (Alain Delon), who flirts with the younger woman as he tries to salvage what’s left of his clients’ investments. After an initial rebuff, Piero pursues Vittoria who can’t help but be attracted to the dashing money man. They spend an unusual day and a half groping at one another, but in the end Vittoria opts out of another potentially smothering relationship.

Unlike the well-defined, middle-aged Pontanos of La notte, the youthful Vittoria and Piero are both open books with many chapters left to be written. L’eclisse takes on a certain sense of wonder but its lack of gravity makes it more difficult to grasp. Antonioni had great sympathy for the children of the 1960s and here his protagonists staunchly reject the older generation. Vittoria leaves Riccardo to spread her wings while Piero rejects the comfort of his upper class upbringing to make his own fortune. He seems willing to settle down with this would-be soul mate, but in the end Vittoria finds him lacking.

Oddly enough, the film’s most telling sequence turned out to be its apocalyptic finale, a mostly silent, seven-minute montage of modern Rome closing down and emptying out for the night. Efforts to analyze Antonioni’s intentions here have always seemed much more heavy-handed than the sequence itself, but it’s not too much of a stretch to say the director’s man-made eclipse effectively mirrors the conflicted passions of his young protagonists.

    What happens to the characters is not important.

Antonioni’s first color film Il deserto rosso (The Red Desert) takes his grand experiment in estrangement and alienation to the extreme in a bleak portrait of mental illness and the dehumanization of society as a whole.

The disturbed young mother Giuliana (Monica Vitti) is unhappily married to Ugo (Carlo Chianetti), a manager of an industrial plant in the town of Ravenna. She befriends the engineer Zeller (Richard Harris) another lost soul, who drifts from town to town and dreams of setting up a factory in the barren South American country of Patagonia. Since Ugo is oblivious to the state of his marriage and his wife’s problems, Giuliana grows closer to Zeller but the complex stranger turns out to be an inadequate source of human comfort.

The foggy, industrial town locale, the use of somber color film stock, and the director’s embellishing (repainting) of the landscape all help give Il deserto rosso an otherworldly quality. Antonioni finds curious beauty in Ravenna’s boxy factories and ugly refineries, even as their waste pollutes the skies and poisons the locals’ drinking water.

Not surprisingly, as the town grows its people shrink in stature. Giuliani’s friends lead lives of quiet desperation, entering into loveless affairs and raking in the cash in soulless business transactions. Giuliana and Zeller, Antonioni’s most detached and damaged protagonists will continue to go on looking for home in all the wrong places.

   Present-day people can’t adapt to technology.

Feeling confined by Italy’s censors, Antonioni would leave his homeland to become an international filmmaker for the next eighteen years. Perhaps sensing his austere technique had run its course in the Monica Vitti films, Antonioni surprised and delighted audiences with a dynamic, intellectual thriller based in the heart of swinging London.

In Blow-Up Thomas (David Hemmings) is an arrogant, mod fashion photographer who thinks nothing of abusing his willing models and docile assistants to create the perfect setting for his art. He uses his spare time to compile a collection of his more serious photography for an upcoming book.

Taking a break from the vapid hijinks in his studio, Thomas visits a quiet park and begins to photograph an attractive woman in lip-lock with a much older man. The woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave), spots the nosy intruder and demands Thomas give her the film he shot. He manages to evade her then returns to his studio where more sessions with zoned-out models and teenage groupies await.

Jane makes a surprise appearance at the studio pleading for Thomas to give her the film. He seduces Jane with his camera and later gives her a different roll to send her on her way. Curiosity piqued, Thomas develops the film of Jane’s tryst and after close examination of the blow-ups he finds he may have been a witness to murder.

While it is a stretch to call Blow-Up a genre film, Antonioni tips his hat to American “kitsch” with the use of sultry women, quick cutting, a jazzy Herbie Hancock score, and splashy, color cinematography from Carlo Di Palma to give his artsy thriller the proper street credibility. Still, like Hitchcock’s Rear Window there is so much more here than meets the photographer’s eye.

     Tell me what you saw and what you think it means. 

Blow-Up is a profound meditation on themes close to the director’s heart; observation, voyeurism, the creation of art, and artistic control. Antonioni’s chilling pop-art masterpiece walks a tremulous tightrope between truth and illusion leaving its jaded dealer in images to wonder about his place in an all-too real world.

Someone’s been killed. I want you to see the corpse.

While Antonioni embraced London counterculture head-on, his next production, Zabriskie Point, turned out to be a pretentious take on California’s “turn-on and drop-out” generation.

Intrigued by the massive contrasts he saw in the United States, Antonioni broadened his scope setting flower children, Black Panthers, nitwit cops, and the clueless middle class against the crass backdrop of commercial America. Antonioni was out of his element. Hamstrung by bad casting, a meandering script, and his own maddening ambiguity, he could only craft a beautiful-looking mess.

The slender story follows the plight of Mark (Mark Frenchette), a college drop-out who mocks student revolutionaries for their chest-thumping ideology then takes matters in his own hands when he attempts to shoot a policeman at a downtown L.A. protest. Mark goes on the lam then steals a small plane which he lands in the desert after running out of gas. There he meets Daria (Daria Halprin) an erstwhile flower child who is driving to Arizona to meet up with her high finance boss (Rod Taylor) at a business meeting.

After they have a fling in the barren but beautiful dunes at Zabriskie Point, Daria convinces Mark to give himself up and proclaim himself innocent of the cop killing. But when Mark lands the plane back in Los Angeles he is gunned down by the police before he can get out of the cockpit. The news prompts Daria to take revolutionary action in the famous, final blow out.

   I detest films that have a message.

Zabriskie Point’s critical and box office failures did little to tarnish Antonioni’s reputation, but instead of accepting an offer to do another commercial extravaganza, he chose to return to his first love; documentary filmmaking.

Sanctioned by the Chinese Communist government, Chung Kuo China would prove to be a cathartic and revelatory experience for Antonioni, who was deeply moved by his shy yet eager-to-please subjects and their sense of place in the community. This inspiration is deeply imprinted on every frame of this surprisingly serene three hour and twenty minute documentary about how the Chinese make-do with hard work and simple pleasures while under the thumb of a repressive regime.

The metaphysical angst of Antonioni’s art house classics is nowhere to be seen and his Impressionist style is extremely effective in cataloguing a sea of distinct faces and fascinating places. Amidst the propaganda posters promoting collectivism, Antonioni and crew dared to venture out into the streets where his observant camera lingers on his shy subjects, for uncomfortable periods of time, until they reveal the soul lying within.

Putting a human face on Communist China displeased hawkish Westerners. While the lyrical Chung Kuo China was void of the didactic claptrap of the revolutionary films of Eisenstein, Riefenstahl and Godard it ran afoul of Chairman Mao. After a showing on Italian TV Antonioni’s towering document slipped into cinematic purgatory.

   A picture has its birth in the disorder within us.

The Passenger was one of the rare instances when Antonioni didn’t work from one of his own scripts. But like Blow-Up, this dreamy, existential study benefits from the use of genre plot points and a heavy dose of Le Carre-ian intrigue.

Esteemed television reporter David Locke (Jack Nicholson) descends upon an African country where he plans to make a documentary on a local uprising. After a particularly frustrating day, Locke returns to his hotel where he stumbles upon the body of an acquaintance, a rich businessman named Robertson (Charles Mulvehill).

Noticing a keen resemblance between himself and the corpse Locke assumes Robertson’s identity and a lifestyle free from responsibility. Locke soon finds there’s more than meets the eye to this mysterious man and by following through on Robertson’s business appointments he becomes an accessory to a rebellion that could blow the whole region wide open.

Never one to be tied down by plot and politics, Antonioni turns the blank slate Locke into one of his metaphysical drifters. As would befit a truly “fair and balanced” journalist, Locke is a fence-sitter, unwilling to take sides. It is this very lack of conviction that dooms his marriage and makes it impossible for him to embrace Robertson’s compassionate persona.

Locke is even misread by his young lover (Maria Schneider) who confuses his flight from the law as romantic while, in reality, it is only a cowardly act to avoid looking at his own self in the mirror. As both his sordid past and disturbing present close in, Locke retreats to a room in a small hotel where, during one of the director’s most chilling sequences, an end is put to his perplexing existence.

      People disappear every day. 

Antonioni’s interest in new technology and the advancing his art led to the filming of The Mystery of Oberwald, a re-make of Jean Cocteau’s The Eagle Has Two Heads, on video. This production for Italian television, starring his old paramour Monica Vitti as the secluded queen, marked a return to conventional narrative filmmaking but, here, Cocteau’s magical lyricism proves too elusive for the existential Antonioni.

   I wake up one morning with my head full of images.

The film’s state of the art video dates badly and the obvious effort Antonioni made to bring out lavish color in the court of the queen and countryside surrounding her castle goes by the wayside in this flat production.

The overlooked Indentificazione di una donna (Identification of a Woman)marked Antonioni’s long-awaited return to Italy as a feature filmmaker. While in between projects brooding film director Niccolo Farra (Tomas Milian) begins a love affair with the neurotic Mavi (Daniela Silverio), one of his sister’s clients from her gynecological clinic. Farra is fascinated by the mysterious aristocrat, but he becomes disturbed when he finds he is just one of Mavi’s many lovers.

When Farra tries to confront her about their relationship, she runs away and takes up with a lesbian girlfriend. Farra rebounds into the arms of another much younger woman, Ida (Christine Boisson), an actress in experimental theatre. He is much more in tune with this more practical woman, but when he finds she is pregnant by another man he terminates their relationship.

Taking a page out of Antonioni’s stormy romantic past, the bloodless Farra seems to be on a singular journey to find a new leading lady for his art. The bedroom scenes between Farra and Mavi generate a surprising amount of heat, but once all the animal passion is spent it is clear neither is capable of lasting love. Farra has a much better chance of finding happiness with Ida, but his ego won’t allow him to be a father to another man’s child.

Indentificazione di una donna is not a pleasant portrait of the artist as a relatively young man, but it’s a fascinating document, nonetheless, for it is here this elusive postmodern filmmaker finally bares his soul for all to see.

   It’s the corrupt ones who need a love story most. 

Antonioni suffered a devastating stroke in 1985 and after a partial recovery he only had the strength and opportunity to shoot a few documentary shorts. Fortunately, Antonioni’s friend and admirer Wim Wenders came to the rescue to help the eighty-three year old filmmaker shoot Beyond the Clouds, a study of adult couples falling into bed and out of love across France and Italy.

Wenders leant a helping hand, filming the sequences in which John Malkovich provides a creepy narrative thread in Antonioni’s ode to the mystery of women, based on meditations from his filmic memoir That Bowling Alley on the Tiber. Buoyed by an international cast of familiar faces (Fanny Ardaut, Peter Weller, Irene Jacob, Jean Reno, Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni) and beautiful bodies (Sophie Marceau, Chiara Caselli, etc.) Beyond the Clouds freed Antonioni up to explore and exploit cinematic sex but the glossiness of the production and the eye-popping locales tend to distract from the meandering on screen angst.

Despite the missed opportunities, a case can be made for Beyond the Clouds being one of Antonioni’s most beautiful-looking films, no small achievement for an artist of such an estimable palette.

       The trap is mysterious, so we all fall into it.

Antonioni continued in a similar milieu in The Dangerous Thread of Things his contribution to Eros, a 2004 omnibus of sensuality also featuring short films by Steve Soderbergh and Kar Wai Wong. Antonioni’s menage-a-trois meditation follows the plight of a bickering young couple Christopher (Christopher Buchholz) and Cloe (Regina Nemni) who become intrigued by a free-spirited young woman (Luisa Ranieri) living alone in a beach house. She seduces the unhappy Christopher but after he leaves for Paris she finds a soul mate in fellow beach nymph Cloe.

    Still burning after all these years.

However slight, Antonioni’s final work seems it remains a serious and an elegantly realized work from a ninety-two year old filmmaker who felt compelled to keep up with his youthful contemporaries.


Books on Antonioni:

The Architecture of Vision: Writings and Interviews on Cinema – Michelangelo Antonioni **** Although That Bowling Alley on the Tiber is generally acknowledged as the director’s most autobiographical work, this revealing collection of interviews offers the most fully-realized look at Antonioni’s life and art.

Antonioni – Ian Cameron and Robin Wood **** Written at the height of the director’s career (1968), and as far as I know only updated once, this insightful and not always complementary book still remains the perfect layman’s introduction to Antonioni. Out of print.

Antonioni, or, The Surface of the World – Seymour Chatman **** Chapman’s very fine study goes off the rails now and then, but it offers enough biological detail to make it, for now, the most well-rounded book on this complex and often misunderstood filmmaker.

That Bowling Alley on the Tiber: Tales of a Director – Michelangelo Antonioni ***1/2 This collection of film treatments and short stories makes for a surprisingly good read. Although Antonioni never fancied himself a writer, many of these allegorical vignettes linger in the netherworld of Kafka and Borges.


Films by Antonioni:

1948  N.U. ***1/2
1949  Seven Reeds, One Suit ***
1950  Cronaca di un amore (The Story of a Love Affair) ****
1953  I vinti ***1/2
1953  Love in the City (episode Tentato suicido) ***1/2
1955  Le amiche ***1/2
1957  Il grido ***1/2
1960  L’avventura ****
1961  La notte ***1/2
1962  L’eclisse ****
1964  Il deserto rosso (The Red Desert) ***1/2
1966  Blow-Up ****
1970  Zabriske Point ***1/2
1972  Chung Kuo Cina *****
1975  The Passenger ****
1980  The Mystery of Oberwald ***1/2
1982  Indentificazione di una donna ****
1995  Beyond the Clouds *** (w/Wim Wenders)
2004  Michelangelo Eye to Eye ***1/2 (short)
2004  Eros (segment The Dangerous Thread of Things)***1/2

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