Monday, April 13, 2009

L'avventura

Michaelangelo Antonioni, 1960, Italy, bw (9.6*)
Cannes Special Jury Prize
This is one of the more pleasant film surprises of my lifetime. Not being an Antonioni fan (Blow Up, Red Desert, Zabriskie Point - all overblown bores, in my opinion), I avoided this film since college, over 40 years. I finally gave in and saw the excellent Criterion version, and watched the commentary. I was entranced by this hypnotic film, titled "The Adventure", in which nearly every scene is a masterpiece of composition, lighting, and B&W cinematic beauty. This may be a difficult film for the public, it's a little slow and measured, but as a visual artist myself, I can't think of a better composed b&w film.

The story is basically a missing person scenario, a commentary on relationships, and a romantic triangle, with some subtly erotic stops along the way, all done with visual cues and acting, not with plot or dialogue, both of which are scarce. A group of idle rich take a small yacht to an tiny uninhabited Aeolian island near Sicily, and the fiancée of the main character, Sandro (played by Gabriele Ferzetti in one of his 104 film roles!), goes missing, and while searching for her together, feelings develop between him and her best friend Claudia, subtly played by Antonioni's wife Monica Vitti. The island scenes are starkly beautiful, and took months to film, with the crew lugging heavy equipment by hand over a craggy, volcanic rock surface.

The Cannes film festival gave it a special jury prize for "beauty in film, a new way of looking at cinema" - to say the least! Along with Bertolucci's "The Conformist", this is now my favorite Italian film, I can see why it's an all-time top 100 critically (39th overall, 15th for foreign language). A must for fans of cinema art, but for fans of plot and action, and a nice pat story, this may be disappointing, so down a star for that alone when I wanted to give it a 10; this is its only fault.

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.



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