Michelangelo Antonioni

Monica Vitti in L'Avventura by Michelangelo Antonioni

Zabriskie Point by Michelangelo Antonioni

Michelangelo AntonioniMichelangelo Antonioni, the film master of modern alienation, despair, and ennui, was the third important personage of world cinema to die in the last three days – Ingmar Bergman and Michel Serrault were the other two. Antonioni, who had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1985, died on Monday, July 30, in Rome. Antonioni was 94.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said Tuesday that Italy had “lost one of cinema's greatest protagonists and one of the greatest explorers of expression in the 20th century.”

Purple prose aside, Antonioni was one of the most influential film artists of the past century. During his 61-year film career – from the short Gente del Po / People of the Po Valley in 1943 to a segment in Eros in 2004 – Antonioni directed more than 30 films and wrote about as many. Half a dozen or so of those – often starring the director's muse, Monica Vitti – are considered some of the most profound cinematic explorations of the human mind.

The Cry / Il Grido (1957), L'Avventura / The Adventure (1960), La Notte / The Night (1961), L'Eclisse / The Eclipse (1962), Il Deserto rosso / Red Desert (1964), and Blow-Up (1966) all deal in one way or another with the vapidity – or rather, the insignificance – of human life in the industrialized world, a realm in which people are unable to either communicate or empathize with one another, and one where reality and illusion more than co-exist – they intersect continuously.

Among Antonioni's other important films are Cronaca di un amore / Chronicle of a Love (1950), La Signora senza camelie / The Lady Without Camelias (1953), Le Amiche / The Girlfriends (1955), Zabriskie Point (1970), and Identificazione di una donna / Identification of a Woman (1982).

“I don't know how to put this: He's just a maestro, and everybody loved him,” Jack Nicholson, who starred in Antonioni's 1975 drama Professione: reporter / The Passenger, told the Los Angeles Times. “… He was a man of joy and impeccable taste. His whole life was dedicated to modestly being a brilliant artist.”

“I owe my courage to Michelangelo's attention,” says Monica Vitti. “I owe my strength to his confidence.”

As for Antonioni's views on his role as a filmmaker, in October 1960 the director himself wrote in Cahiers du Cinéma, “The principle behind the cinema, like that behind all the arts, rests on a choice. It is, in [Albert] Camus' words, 'the revolt of the artist against the real.' If one holds to this principle, what difference can it make by what means reality is revealed?"

Monica Vitti quote: La Stampa .

Michelangelo Antonioni © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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