July 31, 2007

"In the empty, silent spaces of the world, he has found metaphors that illuminate the silent places our hearts ..."

Yesterday, we read that the great film director Ingmar Bergman had died. Today, the morning's news is that Michelangelo Antonioni, another great director, has died. He was 94.
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.

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.''
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 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.


Palladian said...

I thought you might have had more of a reaction to Antonioni's "hippie" movie Zabriskie Point.

What a wonderful artist he was, such an interesting set of contrasts and similarities to Bergman. Like Bergman, without the hope of even human love as salvation.

Ann Althouse said...

As I said, I was very vulnerable to reviews. I never saw "Zabriskie Point" because I saw bad reviews.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Can Norman Jewison be far behind?

Woody Allen must be taking all this pretty hard.

Freeman Hunt said...

"Blow-Up" is one of my favorite movies. It's even on my Blogger profile. While I was watching it, I hated it and couldn't wait for it to be over. Then over the next week I found myself thinking about it and my husband and I talking about it all the time, and so it turned into one of my favorites.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, I was trying to figure out who the 3d director is, since celebrities die in threes (and I don't think Tom Snyder can be in this 3). I thought of Godard, as I do think it should be another European, but Godard isn't quite old enough -- he's about 77. Who's the oldest living great European director?

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

In point of fact, the leading African director, Ousmane Sembene, died June 13 at age 84. Best known for "God's Bits of Wood."

We could run a pool for the next one, and I'd like to broaden it to other genres. My bet: J. D. Salinger (b. 1919). And Norman M. (b. 1923)'s been looking pretty gaunt and frail lately. (See photo in current issue of NYRB, p. 21.)

Maxine Weiss said...

Bernardo Bertellucci, Lucino Visconti, Franco Zefferelli....

---Those are the real Italian filmmakers.