Modernist Master: Our Review Of ‘Red Desert’

Posted in Movies, Retrospective, Theatrical by - July 05, 2018
Modernist Master: Our Review Of ‘Red Desert’

Antonioni’s Red Desert came during the auteur’s peak which means Monica Vitti is in it. She plays a housewife, Giuliana, to a neglectful Ugo (Carlo Chionetti). She also tags along with Ugo’s friend Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris). He tries to recruit men to go to some work site in South America while flirting with her. But their conversation is much deeper than what seems like the cheesiest pick up line in film history. Within their exchanges they discuss the contradictions within love and consumption. Which is fitting conversation topics while walking through what what is almost a ghost town. A place of couples, most of whom are childless. Of a place where people don’t trust each other. A place that robs the workers of their personalities and where the bourgeoisie struggle to keep their sanity.

Red Desert is ripe, as most great films are, with symbolism. Like in a scene with Guiliana, Ugo, Corrado, and their business pals are. They crammed themselves in a port side shack in Northern Italy. There, their only choices are either to freeze to death or take the walls apart for firewood. This is a typical display of Antonioni’s themes. It shows the destruction of old things and characters acting in a frenzied desperation while doing so. It’s also reminiscent of someone saying that we’re living in an apocalypse. That person said that through an Indigenous context yet the audience can apply that gloomy perspective here. Industrialization is a inescapable colonizing force even in a European setting. These people can hide from the inevitable but internal decay doesn’t help these people out.

This movie is a great combination two things. One, of Vitti’s performance, fleshing out a character whose anxieties don’t always affect Guiliana. Two, Antonioni and co-writer Tonino Guerra’s storytelling, giving life to her imagination. In one scene she tells her son Valerio (Valerio Bartoleschi) a story about a girl who lived on an island. Their real lives are the grey of an industrial hell space. However, that imaginary girl’s world has the most serene blue sea. It’s Antonioni’s first color film and he uses it intelligently. He gives his audience that dramatic shift like the one in The Wizard of Oz. It’s a beautiful interlude, one that we wish we can stay in forever. But he jolts us back into a reality that some of us, like Giuliana, understandably would rather not live in.

Red Desert screens again as a part of the ‘Modernist Master: Michelangelo Antonioni’ retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox on Friday July 20th, to learn more about this and other screenings in the retrospective you can visit their site right here.

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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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