Michelangelo Antonioni

By: Mike Fleisch
September 29, 2012

Before L’Avventura (1960), Cannes filmgoers could expect consistency, an upheld contract with filmmakers that narrative pinsets would be masterfully and gratifyingly flattened. Mystery pervades the films of MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI (1912–2007), but time spent in pursuit of the answers may well be a waste of money. And how should time be spent? Antonioni’s characters typically have this choice at their disposal, upper class pleasure-seekers romping through each other, multiplying the quicksand void, aimless undead inhabiting space unconvincingly, like a local meteorologist composited over sunny downtown. Separation, and then the language of separation, become the subject; Antonioni’s often distant camera pans, tracks, frames, and cuts, obsessively responsive to what exists and what does not, to what is in the film, and what is not. Antonioni thus prefigures digital media, continuous analog curves abandoned for spotty binary fields, faces inserted on celluloid like Photoshop layers. For all this attention to separation, Antonioni is not blind to the energy between a hovering hand and the button of a blouse… but as Blow-Up (1966) most overtly asks, “How far can we zoom in and still not see anything?”


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What do you think?

  1. Dag, that’s good shit. Particularly like, “aimless undead inhabiting space unconvincingly, like a local meteorologist composited over sunny downtown.”

    Not my favorite Italian filmmaker of the sixties but you make a good case for him.

  2. Great stuff Mike. Antonioni’s focus does work against the single-screen narrative. His formal language is more fluid than Godard’s, but that makes it an easier transition from film to world via void, so we can see (or, we are invited to see) that our own lives aren’t as continuous as we maintain. Prefiguring digital media indeed!

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