director Michelangelo Antonioni
Over the past several years, among many other cinematic tropes, I’ve been working my way through the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. I guess I’ve attained a certain plateau with his films because an overall sense of his work is forming in my brain, it’s not that every new film brings some truly foreign experience to my mind. But his 1964 film Red Desert did remain somewhat intimidating, as I recalled folks back in film school commenting on its slow pace, length, and impenetrability.
It was Antonioni’s first color film, and it’s vivid, rich and strangely lurid. The strangeness comes not from its Technicolor but from the fact that the world of the film is a ruined industrial landscape, shrouded in deep fog, hemmed by giant ships, factories and pipes, cracked cement, and decaying shacks. Not to mention blackened detritus, poisoned bogs and yellow plume spewing towers.
Antonioni’s ubiquitous female, Monica Vitti, is the alienated protagonist of the film. Married to an insensate industrialist, attached to a child given to faking illness, and flirting with a cold fish of a lover, she is suffering from some psychological crisis that seems to reflect itself on on of its landscapes. And these landscapes are indeed flourished with colors.
I don’t know if impenetrability is really the issue. Antonioni’s films are very sensuous experiences. While many aspects of narrative are either muted or less extant, pervading feelings do overwhelm and infect.
If anything, even over the years between which I’ve seen his films, a consistency of vision forms. Though abstracted and full of vagaries, his films share aesthetics and tonalities.
I quite liked Red Desert. Maybe second only to L’Avventura (1960) so far. I am feeling it would be good to see them in closer succession that I have managed to so far.