Friday, August 17, 2007

Ron Silliman on Michelangelo Antonioni’s "L’Avventura"

The poet Ron Silliman is also a very good critic. I've not seen too many of his posts on film, but this one caught my eye. Silliman posted an interesting look at Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura.

If, as I wrote Monday, the formal advantage of cinema as a narrative art is that you can see the story, the obvious implicit challenge, the one that would occur to an ambitious filmmaker, would have to do with cinema’s ability (or inability) to speak of that which is not visible, not present, what cannot be directly seen. One obvious realm would be that of the psychological – dreamlife, memory, the repressed. In The Bourne Ultimatum, for example, you can tell which sequences – barely more than a second or two in length – are Matt Damon’s character’s memories surfacing, his identity coming back, by virtue of stylistically blurry film, letting in, as it were, too much light.

What then of a more complicated question of absence? How would your closest companions respond if you were suddenly to disappear? How calculate or project the arc of their despair? It’s the question of death seen in its most social light – how will the kids react? Will your spouse marry your worst enemy? This, in one sense, is the thought experiment that is the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the first of his trilogy of films on the subject of eros (a quartet if you consider The Red Desert to be of the same set, which many reasonably do). Seven or eight of the idle rich head off for a cruise around the Aeolian islands, including Anna (portrayed by Lea Massari), her best friend Claudia (Monica Vitti) & Anna’s fiancé Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti). These islands are hardly idyllic – they’re basically volcanic rocks pushed up above sea level – a contrast Antonioni uses to good effect in this most painterly of black-&-white films.

Read the whole post.

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