Aug 10, 2007

Michelangelo Antonioni 1912-2007

Another day, another great director gone to the art house in the sky. Michelangelo Antonioni, an artist of atmospheric ambiguity, died Monday. He was 95, and it's like he just decided that since Ingmar Bergman went, he'd go, too. Incredible.

Antonioni had a smaller body of work than Ingmar Bergman, who died Sunday, but his movies, culminating with 1966's "Blow Up," got some people excited and bored some people senseless. But he was a post-WWII director making movies in rapidly industrialized eras, and his films in the the 1960s and 1970s dramatized those changes through portraits of malaise and alienation, in Italy, London, and Death Valley, California, through epic wide-angle photography that made characters out of landscape, in a way that few directors had. The settings often swallowed his characters and made them sick, namely Monica Vitti, who was the stunning star of "L'Avventura," "L'Eclisse," and "Red Desert."

If you're a certain age, like under 40, Antonioni was a director you discovered in college, which is an ideal place to examine the effects of his style and to dismantle his sensibility: cold, but knowing. People didn't interest him so much as the physical world - architecture, geography, place, and displacement. Not only did he bring poetics to filmmaking, he gave the movie an epic, rousing kind of painterliness. With him, if you had evocative locations, you almost didn't need people.


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