The critics loved ["L'Avventura"], but the audience hissed when ''L'Avventura'' was presented at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. The barest of plots, which wanders through a love affair of a couple, frustrated many viewers for its lack of action and dialogue, characteristically Antonioni.Were Antonioni's films important to you? Although reading of his death did not make me cry -- reading about Bergman did -- I remember seeing "Blow-Up" in 1968, when I was 17 and being very affected, mainly because I hadn't seen all that many movies, and it was the first movie I'd ever seen that showed the actors naked and having sex and, beyond that, it was by far the only movie I'd ever seen with so much psychological and philosophical depth. "Blow-Up" was set in the 1960s London that was so important in pop culture in those days, but I had a pop, teenage idea of it, and "Blow-Up" darkened that picture.
In one point in the black-and-white film, the camera lingers and lingers on Monica Vitti, one of Antonioni's favorite actresses, as she plays a blond, restless jet-setter.
''In the empty, silent spaces of the world, he has found metaphors that illuminate the silent places our hearts, and found in them, too, a strange and terrible beauty: austere, elegant, enigmatic, haunting,'' Jack Nicholson said in presenting Antonioni with the career Oscar....
Asked by an Italian magazine in 1980, ''For whom do you make films'' Antonioni replied: ''I do it for it an ideal spectator who is this very director. I could never do something against my tastes to meet the public. Frankly, I can't do it, even if so many directors do so. And then, what public? Italian? American? Japanese? French? British? Australian? They're all different from each other.''
In college, we saw "L'Avventura," and I can't remember what I thought of it. I don't think I was on Antonioni's wavelength. I tried to watch "L'Avventura" again recently and thought it looked great and felt interesting, but something came up, and I didn't watch to the end. I still feel like I'm in the middle of watching it, but I have to admit that it's been about 2 years since I paused that particular DVD.
The only other Antonioni movie I saw was "The Passenger." I was extremely vulnerable to reviews in those days and would go to anything that got a great review -- or maybe it was anything that got a great review in The New Yorker. "The Passenger" was raved about. It must have been Pauline Kael doing the raving. I still remember her going on about the scene in the end that begins shot through a window and later ends up, in a single shot, outside of the window. I expected grand aesthetic excitement over that, but in reality, I rejoiced when we got to that window because it meant that the movie would soon be over.
And now the movie is over for Michelangelo Antonioni. Goodbye to another artist.