Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni

Posted in Blog, Movies, Retrospective, Theatrical by - June 08, 2018
Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni

Most teenagers were discovering Michelangelo Antonioni through television or instead had normal, non cinephile hobbies. However, I learned about him through fashion, through ‘copies’ of the October 2003 edition of Italian Vogue. Between Gisele and Gigi Hadid, there were top models like Daria Werbowy and Elise Crombez. They wore Armani’s deconstructed versions of the little black dress, posing around an ever changing Milan. Eventually somebody pointed out something about that editorial, styled by Brana Wolf and shot by Steven Meisel. That it heavily referenced Antonioni’s La Notte.

I wondered why Meisel would reference a movie in the 60’s about a rich, sad woman, Lidia Pontano (Jeanne Moreau). Like those models she walks around Milan, contemplating her marriage to a writer, Giovanni (Marcelo Mastroinani) However, the act of pondering these connections reaps its rewards. The early 2000’s was a volatile period both in fashion, film, an the world at large. The minimalist period in the 90’s was over but it was two years before hipster-ism took over. The same thing was happening in the 60’s, after Italy recovered from its postwar struggles. It was also anticipating a sexual revolution that was only happening within bourgeois gardens.

In La Notte, Antonioni tackles that anxiety head on. Those anxieties balloon eventually in Blow Up, a few years later, when the revolution is in full swing. These issues show up in Fellini’s films, that director seeing these changes like an optimist. Those directors put their protagonists in Milan or Rome or London. And in those cities they let them weave between crowds and solitude. Antonioni’s approach to them as cautious as they are. Especially in Blow Up when a fashion photographer, Thomas, (David Hemmings) witnesses a murder. He balances that with a romance with a mysterious woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave, the face of 60s counterculture).

Audiences deserve to see Antonioni’s movies on a respectful, public setting. The few times that experts talking about them before the screenings are worth the tickets. Outgoing TIFF CEO Piers Handling introduced L’Avventura. Admittedly he started out rough but he pointed out how the characters in the groundbreaking movie are natural observers. The leads might be bourgeois but their words are utilitarian. They discuss the changes that they themselves are enforcing on their landscape. And Handling repeats their words in an empathetic way, which is very fitting.

Of course the movies themselves are marvelous. Audiences can see characters like L’Avventura‘s Claudia (Vitti). In the film she deals with her complicated friendship with her wealthy best friend Anna (Lea Massari). Things get complex, as they do, when Anna’s boyfriend Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti) pursues Claudia. Claudia trades her sweaters for one of Anna’s blouses as she travels through southern Italy’s jagged landscapes. Antonioni shows that unconventional. He lets us experience it through great sound design and sharp visuals that we should see on the big screen.

TIFF is screening eighteen of Antonioni’s films, some of them, praise Jesus, have introductions and multiple screening times. I’ll be writing about Red Desert. I’m also looking forward to seeing L’Eclisse, Zabrieske Point, The Passenger, and Il Grido. Showtimes are on all right here. Go out and see these films!

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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